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TED should select "normal people" to attend its primary annual event, i.e. people selected on merit.

TED is very exclusive and that's part of the lure perhaps. Participants generally represent the top .01% as measured by personal wealth. "Normal people" who may be as bright, impassioned and insightful can never have a chance to attend TED, not even a hope if they have chosen to pursue a vocation like academia or social work.

As we do in other parts of democratic merit based societies, there should be a "TED scholarship" set up for people who have no hope to ever be invited based on wealth and achievement.

This scholarship should be merit based in the same way an academic fellowship is. Applicants would be measured based on achievement and a personal essay. I'd suggest 10 scholarships awarded each year, the winners representing different walks of "normal life."

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    Feb 18 2011: HI Stephen! We totally agree here at TED and created the TED Fellows program for the very same reasons you mention above. Check it out here:

    For each conference (TED & TEDGlobal) we select 20 Fellows -- extraordinary people doing insanely cool things around the world who wouldn't otherwise have access -- to join us, all expenses paid. In addition to becoming full conference participants, the Fellows arrive two days early for a Fellows only pre-conference full of skill-building workshops, presentations, and social activities.

    Applications are currently open for the 2011 TEDGlobal class - apply here: or help us spread the word!
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      Apr 11 2011: Just 20? Out of how many people that attend TED?

      I would challenge TED to hold a conference - not a TEDx, but one of the main ones - where at least 50% of the audience are regular people from unprivileged backgrounds. Forget the immense pricetag and see what happens when you get the everyday person involved.
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    Apr 11 2011: Not just merit, because that still has a tendency to favour those with privilege in various ways. But I totally agree with you that TED right now privileges those with wealth, and in a way creates an echo chamber. How are you going to change the world if it's just the same old people over and over?
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      Apr 13 2011: Tiara, I highly recommend taking a closer look at what TED already does and what it has already achieved.

      As someone who has attended three TED-associated gatherings (TED2009, TEDMED, TEDxCLE) on a student's budget, I am not sure I relate to your feelings. Can you please elaborate how there should be scholarships based on "not just merit." How would that work? The OP suggested 10 scholarships - TED gives more than triple that to each conference.
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        Apr 16 2011: When organisations and groups talk about judging people based on merit, they're usually scanning for achievements like participation in major groups or having starting so-and-so project or whatever. However, what if you're just struggling to get by? What if you don't have the money to be able to afford whizzing off to universities or conferences everywhere to "make a difference"? What if you're in a minority that makes it hard to be taken seriously?

        It's worth looking at the idea of privilege - start with Unpacking the White Knapsack and go from there.

        I used to be quite the conference junkie, but I noticed that there was often a lot of talk and fervour - but not a lot of action. There were grand ideas and projects occasionally, but how has it effected change a year on? Or two?
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    Apr 11 2011: Richard Bach once wrote "In times like this why do we need luxury and expensive cars and houses?" the other side of that he wrote was if we do not have things like a 'Stradivarius Violin' then where would we find the inspiration to reach higher levels. The problem as I see it is not that TED has set it's sights to high but that we are setting ours to low. If one really wants to be part of the TED conference one should pursue that goal with a single mindedness. Also I believe we need to be care in our wording, it's not MAY be as bright and passionate, we ARE as bright and passionate. For the most part what has separated us from those who participate fully in TED is wealth and little more. There are many many geniuses alive who are only managing to financially get by as you pointed out.

    The last thing and this is for the TED Staff: while I realise a level of moderation is needed so that the forum does not turn into a YAHOO chat sight with text anachronisms instead of full conversation, don't you think you overstepped the bounds a little by closing the debate opened by Tiara Shafiq:

    This topic is already being discussed in the following conversation:
    I'm going to close this to focus the discussion. Please join the existing conversation instead.
    Thank you.

    I mean surely we overlap topics all the time everyday?
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      Apr 11 2011: Thank you for noting that! I thought it was a little bit iffy.

      Though I would agree about setting sights too low. Having tons of money (which seems to be the core criterion to attend TED) does not make you any more worthy. There are plenty of bright passionate people who will NEVER be able to achieve the $6000 price tag, because their economies would not sustain it. Let's not assume Western privilege is right here.
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      Apr 12 2011: The purpose of closing one conversation and referring to an existing one is done for the benefit of the community in order to focus on the discussion of the given topic, more actively engage community around it and keep things organized.
      Thank You.
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    Apr 19 2011: I think think TED just started out the way it has started out: great ideas being presented to an audience that has the financial means to carry them forward. This has made sense for awhile and is what has made TED successful up until now and I'm sure, has funded TED's free presence online; fellowships etc.

    But, this animal has been quickly evolving. I think the beginnings of the criticism seen here in this thread show that TED cannot, for much longer, be largely associated with elitism in any way. The democratic dispersion of TED talks is coming full circle. And that is an opportunity to grow in good ways. Ms. Shafiq's recommendation of 50% regular people might not be financially feasible right now, but perhaps one day....

    What about, encouraging wealthy TED talks attendees to bring along and pay a discount for, a protege(e) from his / her own community? Maybe if 2 attend, both can get a discount of some sort. I'm sure many TED attendees would rise to the challenge of seeking out a protege(e) and easily find the funding to get him/her to the conference for networking.
  • Apr 12 2011: I have not seen a satisfactory answer to Tiara Shafiq from the Ted team yet. And I completely agree with Lee Wilkinson about moderation. That should not be confused with conformity. you can't preach innovation and restrict and conform people to what "you" think is "organized".

    I look forward to hearing back better answers from the Ted staff.

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      Apr 13 2011: I am not on the TED staff, but I appreciate there being a unified thread on this conversation.
      - the silent majority (?)

      Below: "The purpose of closing one conversation and referring to an existing one is done for the benefit of the community in order to focus on the discussion of the given topic, more actively engage community around it and keep things organized.
      Thank You."