Great Ideas and the Ideas Industry

Umair Haque has put together some brilliant observations about the current situation in Ideas Industry. Umair summarises it with a phrase “TED thinking”. According to him “TED thinking” is a shorthand for the way we’ve come to think about ideas and how we share them, be it an 18-minute talk, an 800-word blog post, or the latest business “best-seller”. Below is a selection of Umair’s thoughts, but I urge you to read the full piece.

“TED thinking” is just a symptom: and the underlying syndrome is our broken relationship with Great Ideas.

TED thinking assumes complex social problems are essentially engineering challenges, and that short nuggets of Technology, Edutainment, and Design can fix everything, fast and cheap. TED thinking’s got a hard determinism to it; a kind of technological hyperrationalism. It ignores institutions and society almost completely. We’ve come to look at these quick, easy “solutions” as the very point of “ideas worth spreading.”

When ideas are reduced to engineering challenges, the focus naturally becomes near-term utility in the so-called real world. We focus on implementation without ever stopping to question our assumptions. But Great Ideas don’t resound because they have “utility” in the real world — they are Great for the very reason that they challenge us to redefine the reality of our worlds; and hence, the “utility” of our lives.

Great Ideas aren’t just “solutions”. Indeed, many of the Greatest Ideas are problems. Picasso would never have been invited to deliver a TED talk about Guernica because it offers no quick, easy, palatable solution.

TED is like an Orgasm Machine for the human mind. It gives us the climax of epiphany, without the challenge and tension of thought. And in that way, I think TED thinking cheats us. Not just the “audience,” but all of us. By putting climactic epiphany before experience, education, and elevation.

Great ideas, then, demand something from us — something more than pleasure. They demand our minds don’t just “accept” — but, as critical thinkers, object, protest, question. In this way, Great Ideas demand precisely the opposite of TED thinking.

Related post: TED konverentsid – kas üheselt hea? (TED – good in every sense? – in mixed English/Estonian)
Somewhat different, but alarming post about TEDx talks: Rupert Sheldrake speaks, argues that speed of light is dropping!

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