TED Conversations

Dave Lim

TEDx Ambassador, TEDxSingapore


This conversation is closed.

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

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Mar 30 2011: The purpose of TED is to "spread ideas." It is a fact, opinion on the matter regardless, that the military is a major funder of research and that military technologies change the world. When a "game-changing" or "paradigm-shifting" technology happens to be a military one, it changes the way wars are fought. What changes the way wars are fought changes who can realistically fight wars, and changes international politics and diplomacy. Gunpowder slowly ended the days of pitched battles, the nuclear bomb was the root of the deterrence concept, and the Predator drone calls into modern question the ancient issue of assassination.

    The rise of offensive military technologies- enhancements in the damaging effects and accuracy of weapons- and shift towards asymmetric conflicts in civilian-filled areas has been eroding concepts of armor and fortified positions. These trends taken together make for a more deadly form of war where the only defense is the enemy not knowing where you are, and a form of war more advantageous to non-state actors. Should exoskeletons ever be made both robust and sufficiently cost-effective for war use, the great change will be the possibility of troops being fully mobile while armored to the degree of being bulletproof to anything less than a .50 caliber. Such a shift would turn the tables against non-state actors.

    If you're still following me, then you probably understand my argument by now: military ideas should be counted in "Ideas worth Spreading." Military technologies shape our lives and individuals and the interactions between states and between states and groups. Moreover, military ideas, such as "total war," "shock and awe," "OODA loops (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act)," "police actions," and etc have far-reaching have implications.

    Excluding transformational ideas and technologies which happen to relate to war-fighting would be tragic for TED. You don't have to watch these talks if you intensely dislike the military.
    • thumb
      Mar 31 2011: "The purpose of TED is to "spread ideas.""
      I noticed that you later added "worth spreading" and that is where most of us have a problem with this talk... Military ideas are NOT WORTH SPREADING!

      And no we don't have to watch them, that is the whole point of this debate, if you want military and weapons you should seek them elsewhere!
      • thumb
        Mar 31 2011: Mr. Strobl,

        You have made the same vehement argument in several places in this conversation, and I will address it here, where it is trumped by the superior analysis above. First let me state my position as a pacifist and as one who has protested both the Iraq and Afghanistan (there weren't many of us) wars in their infancy, and who finds war and the US military-industrial complex and cultural war marchine pugnant. Surely there aren't too many TEDsters who like war, but that does not give preeminence to your point of view.

        "Military ideas are not worth spreading" fails on so many levels:
        - ignores the reality that the entire history of mankind has been marked and profoundly influenced by military conflict.
        - idly asserts that simply not thinking about or not discussing military ideas will somehow radically end conflict.
        - arbitrarily censors particular ideas from public discourse.
        - insults the intellect of other viewers, assuming their inability to filter concepts.
        - assumes the universal correctness of your normative framework (with which I happen to agree, but do not share your bent toward indoctrination of an already liberal-minded community).
        - in this case, ignores the content and context of the message itself. Health care benefits for veterans is a significant share of health care costs in the US, so military technology that reduces these costs is an "idea worth spreading" insomuch as "saving taxpayers money that can be better spent" is an idea worth spreading.

        What's next from you, Mr. Strobl? Shall we pull "The Art of War" off bookshelves because of its non-pacifist rhetoric? Perhaps we should strip George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt (founder of the US National Parks Service), and John F. Kennedy of their respected places in American history because they were soldiers, and military ideas are not worth spreading.

        The shoe is certainly on the other foot when an American is advising a Swede to show more tolerance.
        • thumb
          Mar 31 2011: Dear Jared.
          It is perhaps true that I have been somewhat disrespectful to others while commenting on this thread, for that I apologize.
          And what you say is true, the shoe is on the wrong foot, I should be more tolerant towards people.
          It is just that reading some of these comments made me so frustrated that I did not truly think before sharing my opinion.

          I do however still believe that the military has nothing to do on TED.
          As for "The art of war", of course it should be available for anyone, so should "Mein Kampf" but I do support censorship on TED and still think that the military should be one of those things censored.

          And some of your presidents were probably great people and great leaders, I think that is why you should honor them... not because they were great killers or great at doing what they were told.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.