“He who speaks in primordial images speaks with a thousand voices; he enthralls and overpowers, while at the same time he lifts the idea he is trying to express out of the occasional and the transitory into the realm of the ever enduring.” — Carl Jung
The TED Conference has become a temple for intellectual neurogenesis. At TED (and TED Active), the confluence and diversity of mind-candy triggers just the right kinds of conceptual collisions leading to the elusive, dot-connecting, combinatorial creativity that thinkers relish. I truly believe the synthesis of new ideas arises in the ecstatic or inspired state whereby the recombination of previously acquired information and the pattern-seeking abilities of the brain converge, leading to a form of intellectual neurogenesis, the spitting forth of AHA!, an orgasm in the head that gives birth to new insight. At TED, we experience this multiple times over the course of the event!
Here is one way in which TED truly shines: Besides the obvious (and hugely important) aesthetic considerations, the talks vary widely. This year we went from listening to the Head of DARPA, Regina Dugan, telling us to ”dream the impossible”, to learning about the power of story from the writer ofToy Story – and it is precisely this juxtaposition and diversity that triggers radical new insights.
One of my favorite talks featured X PRIZE founder Peter Diamandis speaking about how exponentially emerging technologies can be leveraged to solve humanity’s grand challenges. The talk was based on the research for his new book Abundance, where he carefully explains how, in spite of what you hear from our doom and gloom media, the world has never been better off, and is improving exponentially. He cited the work of Steven Pinker’s Myth of Violence, which showed how violence is down across the world. He also cited Hans Rosling, another TED speaker, who has shown that by every measurable indicator, quality of life markers for every nation have been on the rise for decades. His talk was just the kind of counter-intuitive download that attendees enjoy.
Life is only worth living when it is in the service of something beyond the explicit and the mundane.
TED has also redefined the dimensions of memetic content: The self-contained ideas packaged in a TED talk can live on past their initial presentation. TED talks can leap from brain to brain, exhibiting infectivity and spreading power, just like organisms! Their vector of transmission is the global brain.
In spite of the huge scale of a TED talk, they still feel remarkably intimate while remaining intellectually satisfying. Most speakers mix and match their work and research with really personal stories, the combination of which allows them to converse with the audience on richer, deeper, and subtler levels of communication by more closely replicating the multidimensional stimulation of actual lived experience. Philosopher Terence McKenna used to say that all of the unique and significant characteristics and preoccupations of human beings can be summed up under the heading of cognitive activities: dance, philosophy, painting, poetry, meditation, essentially the world of ideas, of mind. “We are truly homo sapiens, the thinking animal,” he wrote, “our acts are all a product of the dimension that is uniquely ours, the dimension of cognitive activity. Of thought and emotion, memory and anticipation. Of psyche.”
At TED, the best talks, like cinema, have the power “to make visible the invisible, express the inexpressible, [and] speak the unspeakable”…
There’s a great line that reads: “Life is only worth living when it is in the service of something beyond the explicit and the mundane.” TEDsters seem to wear this truism on their sleeves. Attendees and speakers alike represent the some of the most interesting people in the world. TED is heaven for the thinking mind.
I was so inspired by Peter Diamandis ideas related to Abundance that I did this video rant waxing philosophical on its themes. Proof that TED can turn ideas into action:
Marvel at Jason’s Ecstatic Meditations Series, a series of short films that he calls “shots of philosophical espresso”…