The TED Talks, which touched down Monday in Vancouver for its signature conference, aren’t intended to be political, but the organization’s CEO, Chris Anderson, acknowledged politics have become unavoidable.
“Traditionally, TED really hasn’t touched it at all,” said Anderson, but there is a “constant conversation” within the organization about how to handle politics.
The thought has been that politics is one thing and technology, entertainment and design — the acronym of TED — are other things entirely.
“In the last couple of years there has just been more and more overlap,” Anderson said during a media briefing ahead of the event.
So this year, acting on TED’s motto of “ideas worth spreading,” means bringing in talks by speakers such as Guardian journalist Carole Cadwalladr, who worked with Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie.
Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, the social-media platform often criticized for how seemingly easy it is for users to incite extreme politics, will take part April 16 in an onstage discussion with Anderson.
“Political power is exercised through the use of technology platforms,” Anderson said, in explaining the overlap. “And there’s lots of political questions raised by the abuse and or unintended consequences of technology. So we’ve kind of got no choice but to try and dive in and find a wise way forward.”
Curation is the term TED favours to describe the event’s method of organizing talks around aspirational themes.
This year, 2018’s “age of amazement” has given way to the concept of ideas that are “bigger than us.” The idea, Anderson said, is to focus on ideas that search for deeper meaning to drive change at a time of turmoil and uncertainty.
This year, TED will include thought-provoking celebrity appearances by Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby, who scored a monster hit with her confessional, searingly honest Netflix special. Crazy Rich Asians director Jon Chu, actor and filmmaker Joseph Gordon-Levitt and illusionist Derren Brown are among the other celebrity TED talkers.
University of B.C. happiness researcher Elizabeth Dunn, Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio and starchitect Bjarke Ingels, whose firm BIG is responsible for the landmark Vancouver House’s twisting tower at the foot of the Granville Street Bridge, are among the 70 presenters during 12 sessions over five days.
This will be the sixth year that TED will host its central conference in Vancouver, where an exclusive audience of some 1,800 attendees, influential business leaders, public intellectuals and politicians, spend thousands of dollars to attend. At a minimum, those who are early in their careers and are attending for the first time, pay $5,000 for a “vanguard” membership, but regular members pay $10,000 for the privilege of attending the five-day event.
TED, which began 35 years ago as an invite-only conference in Monterey, Calif., has grown into a global media presence that distributes some 3,000 talks on visionary ideas from the fields of science, technology, entertainment and design freely via the internet.
The volume of the TED Talks that the organization distributes is distilled from a host of TED subsidiary events, such as TEDWomen, TEDGlobal and the TEDX events that the group licenses its name to worldwide.
TED’s main conference, which has taken over the Vancouver Convention Centre’s West building, remains the movement’s centrepiece.
Talks take place in a specially designed theatre that is installed in the centre’s main ballroom each year and presenters are given up to 18 minutes to get across their idea that is inspirational, cautionary, challenging or otherwise thought-provoking.
In past years TED talks have included Pope Francis (via recorded video), CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden (via live video link), and U.S. tennis star Serena Williams.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019