The Problem with TED

I have a problem with TED. It’s like: you’re so smart, I’m so smart. That’s really West coast! I want to argue about ideas!

The words of my US East coast intellectual friend echoed in my mind as I joined the TEDx in Brussels yesterday. The format does not invite argument! There is no opportunity to disagree, or at least let anyone know you do. Sure, you can voice your disagreements in social media (this post being one example), but that is nowhere near actually interacting on-site. The basis of democracy is different ideas competing, this invites debate. The opposite is consensus or dogmatism, which is typical of intellectual mono-cultures like religious sects or dictatorships. I like TED, I really do. It has inspired my work and thinking over the years, I have learned lots. (Yesterday, I learned you’re not supposed to listen to music that you like if you want to focus on work!) But at the same time, it feels intellectually limiting for the aforementioned reasons. So, dear TED organisers, step up your ambition! Invite disagreement. Invite debate. Ideas are great, they get even better when they are pitched to a live audience, but what really makes ideas grow is when they are challenged and must be defended. There is a reason for the academic tradition of having opponents to papers and thesises – it improves the thinking. So next time, after the fifteen minutes of TED online video fame, let the camera pan out and let the audience zoom in.