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TED Talks

TED Talk speaker explains the worthlessness of TED Talks

Thursday, May 01, 2014 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: TED Talks, technological innovation, infotainment

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(NaturalNews) If you've never watched one, TED -- "Technology Entertainment Design" -- talks tend to be mildly informative and not altogether boring. What they are, in essence, are events that can provide a safe, middle-of-the-road platform for speakers and audiences alike, so they can hang together and "exchange big ideas."

But some view TED talks as much more. They see them as a cult, of sorts, and one which captures the middle and university-educated classes in a "safe" environment where people like former Vice President Al Gore and Ray Kurzweil, or digital giants like Google, Microsoft, Cisco, Honeywell and Facebook, and defense contractors and divisions like DARPA, can easily speak and bump up the shares of their companies or stock.

But really, few have ever asked if the TED talks really achieve anything, or if they are merely a corporate shop-talk platform.

And though most TED speakers will never challenge their usefulness, one has: Benjamin Bratton.

'Is there something wrong with the ideas'

Who is he? Bratton is an associate professor of visual arts at the University of California-San Diego. In a recent "talk," Bratton dissected the platform piece by piece, exposing many of the shallow and pseudo-intellectual aspects of them, as well as the dangers associated with the popular utopian forums.

"In our culture, talking about the future is sometimes a polite way of saying things about the present that would otherwise be rude or risky," he begins. "But have you ever wondered why so little of the bright futures promised in TED talks actually come true?"

"Is there something wrong with the ideas or the notion of what ideas can do all by themselves?" Bratton continued.

He says he has "read about the entanglements of technology and culture," at the point where "philosophy and design intersect," and in doing so -- as a means of performing a public service, of sorts -- has concluded that it "is time that we take a step back and ask some serious questions about the intellectual viability of things like TED."

With that, Bratton said his TED talk would not be about his new book or his work. Rather, "It's about TED -- what it is, and why it doesn't work."

"The first reason is oversimplification," Bratton continued. "Now, to be clear, I have nothing against the idea of interesting people who do smart things explaining their work in a way that everyone can understand. But TED goes way beyond that."

He said he was at a recent presentation where an astrophysicist friend of his was making a pitch to a potential donor. Bratton said he thought the talk was "lucid and engaging."

'Middlebrow, megachurch infotainment'

"The donor, however, said, 'You know what? I'm gonna pass. I'm just not inspired. You should be more like Malcolm Gladwell,'" the Canadian journalist, author and speaker who writes for The New Yorker.

"At this point, I kind of lost it," Bratton said. "Can you imagine? I mean, think about it. A scientist who creates real knowledge should be more like a journalist who recycles fake insights. This is not popularization. This is taking something with substance and value and coring it out so that it can be swallowed without chewing."

"This is not how we'll confront our most frightening problems," he went on to say. "This is one of our most frightening problems."

To Bratton, what is TED?

It "is, perhaps, a proposition -- one that says, if we talk about world-changing ideas enough, then the world will change," he said. "Well, this is not true either, and that's the second problem. TED of course stands for 'Technology Entertainment Design.' To me, TED stands for 'middlebrow, megachurch infotainment.'"

See the rest of Bratton's short TED deconstruction talk here.

Sources:

http://21stcenturywire.com

https://www.youtube.com

http://www.newyorker.com
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