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Dave Lim

TEDx Ambassador, TEDxSingapore


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Should TED allow demonstrations of military equipment and uniform on the TED stage?

This may be the first time explicit military equipment has been demonstrated on a TED stage.

What are your reactions and feelings about this?

One TED Community member wrote: "I hope this is the last time I see a military uniform on the TED stage for the purpose of hawking military weaponry... And let's be clear, any tool manufactured for the express purpose of increasing the effectiveness of military personnel is military hardware. "

Some questions:

Will this video TED Talk be used for marketing purposes for military equipment?

Would TED consider re-posting this TED Talk after editing out the first military equipment demonstration?

Where do you feel that the line be drawn?

Invite you to raise and share your feelings, thoughts and questions with the global TED community...

Topics: Stage TED military

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  • Mar 30 2011: Unfortunately, a strong military is a necessity in today's (or any other time's) world. Serving in the military is honourable. Weapons are a necessary part of the military. Naiive pacifism solves nothing. So as long as TED doesn't permit a speaker to glorify the negative aspects of anything military, there is no reason at all to restrict talksabout military matters any more than about climate matters, social matters, art, commerce, or anything else. The thinking person can accept or reject the message, but that shouldn't stop others from watching it.
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      Mar 30 2011: Is the military really necessary for the protection of the country? The united states military just sucks up funds that should be used for education or healthcare. Most of the time its not even used for national defense, it's used to promote the United States colonization of other countries. There are plenty of countries that have no military and are doing just fine. Costa Rica has no military, and with the money that they save they have managed to put together a universal healthcare system, free public education (with a literacy rate higher than the US), and have managed to power their country with 97% sustainable energy.
      What do you think is more necessary?
      • Apr 9 2011: Although I agree that better healthcare, free public education and movement towards sustainable energy are all desirable goals, the US military is beneficial for many reasons. First, Costa Rica cannot be compared to the US on the international stage because when is the last time Costa Rica influenced others in either a positive or negative manner? Also, USSOUTHCOM has done a noteworthy job at decreasing human rights abuses and delivering/administering humanitarian aide, maybe even more than any other organization. The military is the medium we have chosen to influence the world in a positive manner. Since we agree the world is a zero sum game and to do better at one, our capabilities in another area must decrease, the real question is what do you value more? Would you be willing to sacrifice these advances towards a more humanitarian world for the sake of... 97% sustainable energy?
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      Mar 30 2011: The question relates to the showcasing of military equipment and technology on a TED stage and in a TED Talk, rather a discussion about the role of military in society or any particular country.

      Military equipment would range from offensive weaponry, defensive or augmentative technologies (like in this case)
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        Mar 30 2011: Most wars happen to make money and here we are proudly presenting military equipment on TED. How bloody ironic lol.
        • Mar 31 2011: Seeing as we're getting political, here are my two cents. I'm an Australian who knows my history. If the US Navy hadn't helped Australia out against Japanese invaders in WWII in the waters above northern Australia, we'd be speaking Japanese now. I'm glad of the USA's military technology then and now.

          A quick thought on pacifism: Ever noticed that - if you have grandparents who lived through WWII - they don't speak about war as an ethical grey area? Why do you think that is? It is because they came face to face with an evil enemy. Hitler could not be reasoned with - they had to take up arms.

          As much as we want to believe we can all get along and we can put down our weapons, we have to abandon this in the face of real, deep evil. Pacificists are people who have never come face to face with the level of evil of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Hussein, the kind of evil on show in Rwanda, on show in Bosnia and Herzegovina, etc. Unfortunately there comes a time when the negotiation efforts must stop, the talking must come to an end, and force used. Unfortunately this is a fact of life, this is acknowledging our world as it really is. There are times when not taking up arms is morally irresponsible.
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          Mar 31 2011: Hi Phil, I enjoyed your response- it brought a new perspective to the dialogue. I, however, think we should all basically be pacifists until we are confronted with that great evil in our own time. As a Canadian I am a big believer in Peacekeeping rather than war but I do think that even Peacekeepers need to be empowered to protect the defenseless. Still, I see a lot of the military conflicts in the world today have been ignited by interference by outside forces that have catered to elites within the country with a profit motive on both sides to the detriment of the populus.Phil, you also have to admit that both Canadians and Australians were fed as fodder in the wars you mentioned by the powers that controlled our military men at the time.
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          Apr 2 2011: Phil, I see your point and basically agree with you. When faced with overwhelming force, pacifism is usually not much use. It's a sad reality that no end of idealism can resolve.

          On the other hand:
          1. What's wrong with speaking Japanese? Being a slave of a colonial system that treats you as a resource to be used and discarded (Rape of Nanjing, anyone?) is a bad thing, but you chose a poor 'outcome' to make your point.

          2. Why did Hitler come to power? At the end of World War One, Ferdinand Foch declared that the Versailles Peace Treaty was not an end to the war, merely a 20-year pause. In other words, he could see that it created conditions under which Germany would again become a problem. Hitler came to power because of the dynamics of the situation at the time.

          So why was Germany "a problem" in the first place? In a world dominated by the imperial system, the basic principle was to conquer others or risk being swallowed up. This was the problem facing Japan too. The rules of the game were such that conflict was inevitable whenever any one player grew tired of being held down by the others.

          The problem is systemic, and can be solved by a change to the system.
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          Mar 30 2011: Well yes, should it not be linked with the role of military? We link medical advances to healthcare and khanacademy to education... is it so far fetched that we link exoskeletons made by Berkley to to the military and is it so far fetched that we link the military to war (which is bad)?
          TED has a lot of standpoints on politics and religion and should also have very clear directives of not allowing military promotion in any way!
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        Mar 30 2011: I have mixed feelings about military research. What I'm absolutely not conflicted about is the idea of censorship in TED. Editing out portions of a presentation before posting it is, I believe, censorship. The present discussion would not have existed had "they" edited the presentation. And who would "they" be? I'm not willing to let "them" make decisions for me.

        TED has guidelines about what is or isn't an idea worth spreading. I must believe that they brought the speaker on for the core idea presented. If a portion of the idea is somehow offensive to me, I must make that decision on my own.

        If they decide to include in their guidelines that ideas are worth spreading unless they have any military application, there might be very few ideas left to spread.

        If they decide to tell a speaker to present an idea but not in its entirety, that would be preemptive censorship.

        Very sticky...
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          Mar 31 2011: Hear, hear. No censorship.

          That would be more meaningful though if TED did not rely on big corporate sponsors.
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          Apr 1 2011: On the topic of censorship, all of the societies we live in have varying degrees of censorship, explicit and implicit, on what can be said, shown, etc. Public censorship exists most everywhere, including on this TED Conversations forum. We both self-censor and are subject to censorship also: http://www.ted.com/pages/conversations_terms
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        Mar 31 2011: Revett, first and foremost, I am not proclaiming myself a Messiah. Where the hell did that come from? That is my wish; To help the world. You have a problem with that? When did I say that there aren't people who are "as smart" as me? Why in the world are you comparing in the first place?

        And second, nothing you said disproved my statement which is based on nothing but facts and research on the subject matter. People "as smart" and "smarter" than me have proved it already so I don't see the purpose of proving it to you again especially with this interesting cello attitude you have going. Cheers mate.
    • Mar 31 2011: "Unfortunately, a strong military is a necessity in today's (or any other time's) world."

      You don't know this.

      "Serving in the military is honourable."

      What does that mean? It means that the military has its own mythology. The purpose of the mythology is to perpetuate business opportunities.

      The military has occasionally developed technology that turned out to benefit the general public. It goes without saying that these happy results are unintentional. Could we divert but a tiny percentage of the military budget to primary research, we would benefit many times over.

      It sickens me to see military technology on display at TED. The military is, by definition, contrary to every humanitarian impulse. Nothing good can come from such people.
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        Apr 1 2011: @Revett - I can understand your perspective but let me ask you something. You say war isn't for money. Then what is it for? Saying "it's dumb" is illogical. War is very well planned. There is nothing dumb about it. On the contrary it's so smart that it's simply sickening when you go deeper into its mechanics and understand how it works. Let's place the world wars aside and go to Vietnam as an example. What do you think it was for?
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        Apr 1 2011: Likewise. But you seem to imply that these wars happen for pretty darn good reasons when in reality, Vietnam was based primarily on money, nothing more. The US just needed a war, as hard as it is to accept that. If it was a just war, you wouldn't have the US military officials preventing the soldiers from doing any real damage, in countless ways. As cold as this sounds, there was nothing heroic about Vietnam. It was completely set up, starting with a ship that was blown up by the US! We were told that it was the Vietnamese. Ironically the same dirty tactics that were used there, were also similarly played out with Iraq. Do a search on economic hit men if you already haven't, you'll see what I mean.

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