by: John Winsor
I'm just back from my first TED conference and am still buzzing from the energy and learning. It's going to take a few days to make sense of all of the wonderful things that were shared. More than the talks, it was incredible to be with so many amazing, optimistic and motivated people.
This morning, I was reading Helen Walter's post on the BW Next Blog entitled, "TED: The three-letter-conference in Long Beach in denial about the credit crisis" and certainly agree with many of her points.
However, I thought Chris Anderson did do a good job of addressing the issue of omitting the credit crisis from much of conference. And, his thoughts were spot on. (He also wrote a thoughtful response to Helen's post on the Next Blog.)
I do, however, feel that what we are at the start of is something that is bigger than a credit crisis. It is the start of a deep wholesale reconfiguration of society brought on by a culmination of factors from environmental degradation to new medical issues caused by the lack of effectiveness of antibiotics to the deep greed and narcissism caused by unregulated financial engineering. Even more significantly has been the lack of leadership and profound mismanagement from our political system. While past crisis have been caused by one or two of these factors we are now in a situation that everything is up in the air.
While some might look at this with regret and fear I view it as a time of great opportunity and hope. Things will be difficult. Many of the old ways society has done things need to end. A new, more holistic view of the world needs to emerge. Chris Anderson wrote, "That, honestly, is my take on what's happened here, that we have created a destructive and impenetrable tangle, and no one, not even the smartest people in the world, honestly know how to untangle it. The link between cause and effect has been broken. No one knows whether if you pull a string here it's going to improve something over here, or just increase the tangle."
But Chris, if it's not us that helps figure this out, who else will?
TED and the folks who attend the conference are in a unique position to lead this paradigm shift by translating the ideas worth spreading into actions worth taking. But, only if everything is on the table. A new holistic model must be developed that not only includes, Technology, Entertainment and Design but also includes the underlying moral and economic implications that will support this new paradigm.
It starts with optimism. As Chris so eloquently said, "I was so struck by something Craig Venter said at Oxford a couple years ago, that, he wasn't sure whether the optimists or the pessimists were right, but he knew this: that it was the optimists who were going to get something done. And so that is the stance here. When the nightmare passes, the ideas we have heard this week have a real shot at shaping the future, and that's what I believe TED to be."
What an exciting time to be alive. We have been given a rare opportunity to help change the coarse of history in a positive, long-lasting way for decades if not centuries to come.
I'm optimistic we will succeed.