Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What is a TED conference?

Sometimes I see a TED conference mentioned in technology or business news, and I've always wondered:  What is TED? No, not the movie with the talking bear.

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, and according to their website, the conferences are all about 'ideas worth spreading.'  Since 1984, people from these three industries and more have met to give, and listen to, short talks about ideas.  The conference now holds two annual meetings--one in Edinburgh, Scotland, and the other in Long Beach and Palm Springs, California, USA.  The Sapling Foundation, a private non-profit, owns TED.

I'm not sure how you get invited to TED.  About 1,500 people attend the Long Beach conference, but how are they chosen? According to the TED site, they give preference to people who, "have done something fascinating with their lives, show evidence of creativity, innovation, insight, or brilliance, are well placed to help make a difference in the world, and have made a contribution to the TED community (for example, by supporting a TED Prize wish)." 

I guess you can't just buy a ticket and show up.  Besides, the price for the 2013 conference in Long Beach is $7,500.00 USD, and $2,500 USD for the Palm Springs portion.

TED's 32-person advisory committee has some names you're probably familiar with:  Larry Page and Sergey Brin from Google, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Jeff Bezos from Amazon, plus various physicists, futurists and gurus.  Corporate partners include biggies like IBM, Sony and Delta.

A neat feature of TED is you can watch the 18-minute TED talks on iTunes, Hulu, Netflix or YouTube, with subtitles in a variety of languages.  They also give out prizes, sponsor fellowships, and have smaller, regional TEDx events.

The part of me that enjoys conspiracy theories might see TED as a sort of Geek Illuminati.  Like maybe all the tech billionaires sit in a room around a big table, and one wears a fez, and another holds a Persian cat and they talk about building a secret moon base. 

Strangely, you can't find much information on the Internet about TED, that is a non-TED supplied.  Which is odd.  Then again, how many bloggers have ever been to a TED conference, so we can really only speculate.  Although I did chuckle when I went to their forums page--one of the commenters used a familiar image as their picture--a Guy Fawkes mask.  Hmm.  What if TED joined forces with Anonymous? Now that would send me right for my foil hat.

(Here is the link to the TED site.  I really couldn't find much else, and besides, I had to stop writing and go to a meeting.  No, not a TED meeting. It was AIM, or maybe Hydra. I forget which--I'm in both.)

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