I've never watched a TED talk. I've probably read an article or two about them, when they were new, but I don't remember the content. What are they?
Remember those %%%%%%%%%%%%%☆TheMoreYouKnow things that NBC used to run?
Imagine if those ran 12-30 minutes, and were intended for curious autodidacts instead of bored couch potatoes.
That's a TED talk.
'k. So TED ("Technology, Entertainment, Design") has been running conferences since '84. They've been running conferences yearly since 1990. They are invite only, they cost a shit-ton to attend, and they are sort of Bilderberg Lite®. The idea is to gather a bunch of luminaries in Monterey for the weekend and rub them together so their different colors of luminary-ness will rub off on each other. The TED "talk" is literally "Hi, I'm Ben, I'm from France, I make pretty pictures from math" for pompous intelligentsia.
The idea being, once Bob explains what a Mandelbrot set is, people will come up and talk to him after drinks to learn what importance chaos theory has in, say, weather prediction. Meanwhile, Bob will be inspired to apply Stewie's ideas about sustainability to his closed mathematical sets. The "whole world" benefits from this cultural cross-pollination, everyone takes a tax deduction, and the little people are kept out where they ought be.
Obviously, you can't assemble egghead parties like this for fifteen years and have proles not saying "I wish I could be a fly on the wall." So they released the recordings. Yeah, you're not rubbing shoulders with the guys at the cocktail parties, but you can watch what they have to say and feel smart.
You're not learning as much as you think you are, though. The point of the "talks" is as a jumping-off point, and when you're an end-user on the internet, they're the alpha-omega. Yeah, maybe they inspire you to do some web searching. But really, you're watching TV. You'd get a lot more edification from an issue of Science News… except those take a lot more than 12 minutes to digest.
So what you're left with is "youtube for nerds." They're bite-sized, survey-grade overviews of one particular individual's area of study, presented in the best light they can come up with to get people to talk to them at cocktail parties. Granted - lots of these people have lots of cool things to say but every.single.one of them has a better venue to present their ideas to you. Read their book. Use their software. etc. But again, that takes more than 12 minutes.
The "TEDx" thing basically came from TED licensing the idea of getting a bunch of people in a room together to talk one-by-one in front of cameras. Yeah, you don't get paid. Thing was, if they really wanted you to speak at the TED conference, they'd comp or deeply discount your admission to the conference. TEDx? That's whatever bullshit you can get people to show up for. And that's why dude's all up-in-arms over not being paid by TEDx - it's a dumb thing down on the corner. TED? That's an egghead retreat somewhere people want to vacation. I mean, who doesn't want to be celebrated as a genius among geniuses especially when they make you stay here?