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Amgad Muhammad

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Why Technology talks receive fewer standing ovations

I was introvertly celebrating watching over 200 TED talks last night on TED.com and I was visiting my profile to take a look at my 3.5 years of knowing TED and one fact just pop out: “Tech guys receive fewer standing ovation.”

I'm not talking about using technology as a platform for ideas (like Khan Academy). I'm talking about inventions and breakthroughs. The speaker -at best- gets a lousy 4 seconds clap in a conference where the T initial stands for Technology and were you can see tech elites like Bill Gates and Sergey Brin among the guests.

I don't have a research to support my allegation, just a mere observation. But I wanted to know why fewer people appreciate TED techies when they turn sci-fi into live demos on stage!

So there're basically two things to discuss here:

1) Are the tech speakers doing it wrong? Do they fail to make their inventions engaging? do tech inventions need special presentation skills?

2) Or are we becoming less inspired by what tech. provides, taking it for granted?

What's your thought on this?


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    Jan 9 2014: Amgad, I watched a talk where the speaker ask the audience to raise their hand if they were liberal and then those who were conservative ... there were three conservatives. He said he was not surprised by the outcome.

    So here is my "GUESS". If a technical speaker was on the subject of proving the Earth was experiencing global warming then he would get a standing ovation. However if he had three minutes to explain a theory that took years to arrive at and is highly technical he would leave most of us in the dust and scratching our collective heads. The applause would be courteous but with little enthusiasm.

    Liberal causes will always fair well on TED. When I first joined I went to the members site often and found that a very high majority were self confessed liberals and atheists. I do not think that speakers are getting it wrong ... I think that they are careful to align their talks to the audience. This much harder to strike that cord with technical subjects.

    There is nothing wrong with liberal people with the exception of Krisztian .... just because this will evoke a response. As much as it hurts me to acknowledge a good thought from a liberal ... his cynical theory is very good. Darn that hurt. Just messin with you big guy ... Here is his ... cynical theory: because people give standing ovations to talks that express their own views eloquently. and people don't have their own views about technology.

    I wish you well. Bob.
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      Jan 9 2014: Hey there Robert!

      Mmmm, I don't know, you guys keep pointing out the relation between political views and technology and I'm not sure they're in anyway relevant.

      How do political views influence my judgment on whether a certain innovation on stage is worth my respect?
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        Jan 9 2014: First we are speaking of standing ovations ... not personal respect.

        Second in a room full of super liberals and atheists is a bad time to evoke a deity or present conservative ideas ... so what we have suggested is that the speaker needs to be aware of the audience ... and knowing that a speech about global warming and the conservatives failure to admit to this and their failure to act are going to kill us .. would get a standing ovation longer that the speech.

        So we are back to Krisztian's reply: cynical theory: because people give standing ovations to talks that express their own views eloquently. and people don't have their own views about technology.

        It really is not about either technology or politics ... it is about pleasing the crowd and in this case it is a super liberal atheist audience called TED members.

        Does that help. Bob.

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