Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ TED is Political

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Feb 15, 2010

Originally posted on Half an Hour, February 15, 2010.

Commenting here:

 I have never been jealous of the rich (though there was a pretty long period of time in my youth when I was angry about not being able to afford food and housing).

I'm not about to start being jealous. Being rich isn't some kind of natural ability; it's a symptom of a psychosis. Rich people - especially those who continue to amass more and more wealth - are anti-social, and often criminals.

What I object to is the representation of TED attendees as an elite. They are no elite. TED attendees are like "Nina Khosla, design student at Stanford. Does that name sound familiar? It should, her dad is famous VC Vinod Khosla." Having a famous (rich) dad makes her elite? Not in my book.

Same with the presenters. It isn't like you lined up everyone and picked the top 100 to present. Quite the contrary - the top 100 people in the world would probably be found nowhere near TED. They are very likely people who are trying to fight world hunger (not world obesity). They would be actual nuclear physicists (not Bill Gates talking off the cuff on the subject).

TED is political. Let me repeat that. TED is political. It is not an elite - it is money trying to dictate what counts as intelligent, what counts as important. Anything is fair game, so long as it doesn't jeopardize their (the audience's) comfort level and position in society.

In a way, the $6K admission price is pure genius. It completely distracts attention from the real price of admission: conformity with an outrageous and pernicious political platform. *That* is what they screen for when they screen for admission.

And from here:

The thing is, they – TED Exec and their corporate sponsors – decide which ideas are “worth spreading”, and then they lend these ideas a false legitimacy by creating this ‘elite’ status around them – where ‘elite’ means, of course, ‘chosen by the TED Exec and their corporate sponsors’.

Would these ideas stand on their own merit, without all the hype? Maybe. But the ideas – and the speakers advocating them – get a big boost. And we get, at a minimum, the ‘big man’ theory of science (coupled with the ‘big CEO’ picture of commerce) and the ideas and ethos that goes with that.

TED exists as a concept by denying, at its foundation, that ideas are created and nurtured and grown by a community. It imposes on top of that (and often against that) a mythology that ideas are created by ‘great thinkers’ (and therefore to be owned, and commodified, and monetized).

(For example) who are the champions of open learning? According to TED, a Harvard professor and an entrepreneur.

This is classic TED. Take an idea that has gained currency. Self-appoint some (non-genuine) champion of that idea. Change the idea subtly to align with the political preferences of the ‘elite’ audience. Then market the new version of the idea (and its new champions) as the original idea that has been and is widely accepted.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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