Ten Miles Square


January 03, 2014 10:00 AM Skepticism about TED Talks

By Keith Humphreys

TED of course stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and I’ll talk a bit about all three. I Think TED actually stands for: middlebrow megachurch infotainment.

That’s one of the choice lines in Benjamin Bratton’s critique of TED talks. I know many gifted people who have done TED talks, but I demurred when I was asked to speak at one of the numerous TED spinoff events (I think it was called TED-x but it might have been TED-ious). I find the deference of the audiences a bit creepy and also dispiriting. If an audience of my students were as docile and adoring as TEDgoers, I would consider myself a failure as a teacher.

The Onion’s parody of TED talks is the ultimate takedown of the format. If you mixed this video in with a random sample of 9 other TED talks and asked 1,000 TED-goers to guess which one was the fake, I am not confident that most of them would come up with the right answer.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Keith Humphreys is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine.


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