David Irvine

Team member, maidsafe.net limited

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Is TED turning into a "my 15 minutes of fame" site?

Recently I have seen, as usual, many inspiring and enlightening TED talks. This is what I use TED for, inspiration, enlightenment and furthering knowledge though great questions and amazing invention as well as many other things.

I do feel, however, there are many more statements that focus on 'I call it' or 'I was nearly in tears', all in their own right maybe entertaining, but not in line with what I watch TED for. I suppose I am saying there is many more talks that highlight speakers rather than the subject matter. Not that highlighting speakers is not great, especially if they are exceptional, however it was always more the subject matter that inspired me.

I feel a wee bit uneasy when speakers are nearly in tears with shacking voices stating how 'if we could only not starve folks, or 'why do these people suffer so'. Now I do feel these talks have a place and an important place, but to me they are in a different genre than Technology, Innovation (Education) and Design.

So do we need two distinct TED streams, a TED one and a compassion, human felling, doing 'right for rights sake' type stream?

  • Sep 5 2011: Hi David,

    TED has definitely ventured from its original place, yet I consider all the more diversity intriguing. Everything TED is, is entrusted into the speaker. However they choose to talk, and with what tone is simply a matter of the speaker's style, like with all presentations. I don't think that it's becoming 15 minutes of fame, because I think all the different opinions and layers of subjects make the themes of TED as a whole more interesting than ever. Pathos is definitely a speaking style that has been practiced through the ages. Being able to distinguish pathos and logos makes the TED experience more enjoyable, but I'm not sure it's up to TED to decide which falls in which category.

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    Sep 6 2011: Absolutely nothing wrong with 15 minutes of fame if you know what to do with it. The question you seem to be asking is- Is a strong emotion the only way to motivate people, create involvement? Or, more subtly- Do emotional appeals act as a catharsis that allows us to suffer in empathy and thus expiate our guilt for doing nothing. I'm wondering if there are any studies that tried to lasso a metric around how to get people into problem solving mode? I bet NASA has a ton of papers on handling emergencies in mission critical situations.
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      Sep 6 2011: I think this hits the nail on the head! maybe it's the old powerpoint or presentation story I heard years ago. A presentation is 5% content, 5% look and feel and 90% how you talk or the emotion you convey (cannot remember the exact phraseology).

      Maybe I am saying I am expecting more than 5% content and perhaps even looking fro 90% content and a 5% emotion, or maybe I am being way to cynical and logical, I suppose we are not computers. In any case I do feel the balance has shifted to the former in a big way and it was unexpected for me and I really personally feel I have lost something that used to be TED.

      Still think it's way out there in terms of these kind of sites (and there are more and more now) but I did like the 20 minute, very interesting stuff to learn and from people who obviously loved what they spoke about, whether they were great presenters or not. They all seemed to be to me and did not need the large emotional outpouring.

      I do realise the Khan academy etc. exist so for pure learning there is always that, it was more the quick,, changing subjects, jaw dropping nuggets that were always a joy to find. Still there but I bet I now miss some as I tend to watch a lesser % of new releases.

      Then again maybe TED has done it's job with me and I do now seek innovation from everywhere and my expectation levels are higher than when I started ? who knows :-)
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    Sep 10 2011: This site is different is the way that it brings people together to talk about the countless issues facing every corner of the glob. This site brings both people with ideas and solutions and entrepreneurs who have the resources and connections to bring an idea into realization. This site and organization is a functioning solution to the worlds problems where everybody has a true and equal voice. This organization shows that one person with one idea can change the world and make a difference regardless of who they are and where they come from.
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    Sep 10 2011: Well said ! it is my point though, the countless ways now include much more than previously TED was. Maybe a good thing but then again it may be stuff really important to some is missed just cause there is so much now. If we take it to an extreme and make it a moderated youtube then it would become even more difficult.

    Again, I am unequivocally not saying it's wrong, but it certainly is different. Maybe we should have an ever continuing increase to the amount of talks and their diversity should be celebrated, but there is a logical conclusion to that.

    I cannot thank TED enough and have recommended it to swathes of people and had great feedback from them, but now I do feel there is less focus in the areas that used to attract me. (selfish perhaps, I can accept that).
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    Sep 6 2011: Good evaluation of where YOU might be in relation to how TED offerings are now perceived. Zoom out, zoom in, walk around it, spin it in your head, get the cubist take. We try so hard to escape from time that we fail to let time evolve us.

    Emotional appeals stem back to story telling and are great for kids, telethons, warlords and evangelists. But at some point we have to grow out of what can become a trap and simply see events in terms of maximum, total field efficiency. The ability to shift interpretive frameworks does not come from the semiotic involvement of story drama and plot suspense. It comes from an ability to step outside, then inside, then outside, etc. Our minds are DYNAMIC systems and to use them well, we might emulate that dynamic capacity.

    The cliche criticism of logic is that is it cold, unfeeling, cruel, a matter of quantities. This is emphatically untrue. Any rigorous logic will be a total field logic that is designed to operate for the betterment of everyone for all time. There is a difference between the the ideal and a fantasy. Logic gets you to the ideal.