Monday, 24 January 2011

TED is TEDious.

But surely that's impossible?
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design.   It's a kind of annual conference and awards festival at which a genius is made to stand up and say why things are so beautiful and creative these days.  Then, once the head of Glibtech has made his powerpoint presentation, the audience give him a standing ovation.
For what?
For little more than pointing out in a roundabout way that the Internet exists.
How to yawn without opening your mouth.

Distill everything down to to a two second summary and in almost every case it's a version of Whooa! Internet!    If powerpoint had been around at the invention of the wheel, it would have been the same.  Case studies would have started with the challenge (getting rock from A to B) which then would be solved by a caveman wearing a polo-neck.   Evening session:  man with funny accent says, what if we used wood?  Lighter, more practical.  Ovation.

One of the most watched TED lectures is from a guy who says he can transform Global business with the finding that people solve problems quicker when they're NOT given a financial incentive.  Very interesting.  Except that the research is 40 years old and has been replicated in every country ever since.  It's a motivational number with a bit of input from Wikipedia.  Another guy does a display of publicly available stats shown in a nice graphic interface.  Sooo you take this bunch of stats from the internet, download some software from the Internet, and lo, an internet thing happens.   Someone showed Jamie Oliver the recipe for a pie chart and he's lost to the world of seasonal veg forever.  Genuine techmaster Pranav Mistry shows how he took his computer apart and stuck different bits to his body to make himself into a sort of internet man.  Ovation.  Trouble is, he was probably more use to the world in a lab than being a Tomorrow's World presenter and working the room with a name badge.  What TED seems to prove is that there has been an incredible increase in people's accessibility to the developments in technology, entertainment and design, and that means really, really good powerpoint fodder.  We're all geniuses now.

To prove it, here's a TED presentation.

(Stand for a few seconds.  Pace to one side, forefinger over mouth, look up as if I've just had a thought)
Numbers are amazing. Did you know, the world's consumption of baked beans last year weighs as much a 20,000 fully grown African elephants.  Yet 20,000 cans of baked beans weighs the same as a fully grown African elephant. Why?  What is that?  (Thoughtful gasp from audience) Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, two of America’s founders both died on the same day, July 4th. Exactly 50 years from the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Surprising, isn't it. You see, the internal symmetry of numbers is what drives the universe.  We are all numbers. (Click powerpoint button - pic of flower) Dynamic symmetry is evidenced mathematically in botany, art and architecture. But here's a thing.  It exists too in the stock market.  (click  - seascape) A amazing cool guy called Charles Henry Dow compares market trends with tides: the waves are subordinate to the tide and the ripples in the water are subordinate to the waves.   (Click - numbers) Then an amazing genius called Ralph Elliot noticed that there are impulse waves and corrective ways and that they behave in a similar way to Fibonacci ratios, i.e. according to natural rules....

I could go on. Of course,  I'm no mathematician, but I'm guessing neither are you.  So the fact that I'm just absent-mindedly trawling websites,  gleaning 20, 30 60 year old guff, adding the odd 'cool' and 'genius' then pulling on the old polo-neck and standing in front of you fools you into thinking that the most amazing thing ever just happened. 

Well, much as I appreciate smart new media people for their continuing to point out that technology has driven new ideas (as if that's never happened before in human history),  I've got some internet-derived but otherwise bog-standard research myself.

An individual's productivity tends to plateau or tail off on being given an award.   In other words, the TED foundation is killing off great creative minds one by one,  taking them out of the labs, studios, offices, kitchens, theatres, garages and front rooms where they do their thing, and turning each one into yet another stage-pacing powerpoint monkey to be cooed over by human equivalent of their hotel room mirror.

Right...if I can just generate coupla slides on that half-arsed theory, check my refs on wiki and I can embark a career on the circuit myself. See you there!