TED Conversations

David Hamilton


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Will ideas that are "smart", ever be "popular"?

Is the word "smart", in fact, diametrically opposed to the word "popular"? In the sense that... Smart, is a relativistic value judgement... So the definition of the word smart, tends to imply, that someone has a greater abillity to accurately see and describe the world around them, than the "average" person.

If, "smart" people, by definition, see the world around them differently than "average" people... and "average" people, are the majority... again, by definition... Will, what is smart, ever be, what is popular?

Can humanity ever elect, through free will, a competent, forward thinking, smart individual? Or, does the election process itself, by relying on popularity, guarantee, than no one "smart", will ever be in charge?

Is democracy, a race to the middle? Does it actually have no potential whatsoever of being progressive? Or, am I just in a particularly cynical mood today?


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    Jan 20 2012: David is looking for some form of elitism in terms of the intelligencia running the show; we already have a technocratic system where "smarts" is monetarily rewarded.
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      Jan 20 2012: Interesting... I totally disagree that our current societal model monetarily rewards "smarts"... Pure capitalism, was designed to do that, for the most part, but that's a bit of a myth nowadays. I actually think that was part of my point. I think we've democratized education, to the point where what is popular, is actually considered correct whether it is verifiable or not. I'm also not really interested in the intelligencia running the show.

      It would be nice if the leaders of the free world weren't handicapped children, though... I'm remotely curious if there is anyway to improve our current state. Winston Churchill always said that "democracy is the worst form of government, except of course, every other system that humanity has yet tried"... Is there a next step?

      Will we try something better eventually? What would it look like? A competition perhaps, where people who understand and solve complex problems move to the top. I'm also curious as I said, if democracy could ever be capable of electing anyone who is actually above average at anything, or are we destined to elect the lowest common denominator? Is a race to the middle the best we can do? Perhaps, I just hope not.
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        Jan 21 2012: The system of indirect democracy that the United States adheres to is intentionally adversarial; two warring factions constantly push against one another leading to a protracted stalemate where stagnation and non-progress are part and parcel of the status quo. We also have a population that is largely non-participatory; which means that the people power that we should have is merely illusory. We can look to history for examples of political change in a democratic direction. We begin to see an unfortunate trend, the more oppressive and authoritarian a regime, the more animated the reaction of the oppressed--I'm thinking of the Russian revolution concomitant with the bread riots that were taking place in its beginnings. People need to get pissed before any real change comes to pass.

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