"David Brooks on Sting at TED" may be the ideal way to introduce your father to the concept of TED, since he almost certainly has a very solid grasp on the other two things in that phrase already.
How TED works: de-facted emotional appeals, shot well, crafted into parables of the good life. (In the New Yorker, subscription-only.)
The long knives have been out for TED Talks for some time. Benjamin Bratton called them "middlebrow megachurch infotainment." Evegny Morozov called the TED publishing arm the "insatiable kingpin of international meme laundering." The gist of these arguments is that TED Talks are vapid, culty mass-selfies that fetishize technology for every solution. It is "placebo science" meant to make its audience feel good about learning and themselves, where ideas can hang out and do whatever, man—just turn the safety off on your brain-gun.
If not read in the voice of a perpetual techno-cynic, these might not be such terrible things. Is middlebrow entertainment bad? If cynics want [...]
The September issue of Fast Company contains a breathless look at TED and the viral-video nature of clips featuring its flagship conference's 18-minute lectures — known as TED Talks — by Anya Kamenetz. I spent a good part of this afternoon trying to figure out why this piece, which calls the network of conferences and videos "the new Harvard" in its URL but curiously backs off that claim in its actual headline, got my outrage-o-meter popping. Let's find out!
Today TED is an insatiable kingpin of international meme laundering—a place where ideas, regardless of their quality, go to seek celebrity, to live in the form of videos, tweets, and now e-books. In the world of TED—or, to use their argot, in the TED “ecosystem”—books become talks, talks become memes, memes become projects, projects become talks, talks become books—and so it goes ad infinitum in the sizzling Stakhanovite cycle of memetics, until any shade of depth or nuance disappears into the virtual void. Richard Dawkins, the father of memetics, should be very proud. Perhaps he can explain how “ideas worth spreading” become “ideas no footnotes can support.
I used to like volcanoes. What's not to like, I thought, right? Huge mountains that explode and spew fire and hot lava everywhere? Nothing if not totally exciting and fascinating. I enjoyed the volcanoes in Tarzan and King-Kong and Godzilla movies as a child. I did the requisite science project in third grade-papier-mache, rubber tubing, baking soda and vinegar, etc. Fun and educational, I thought. I learned how to play Eddie Van Halen's riff from "Eruption" on guitar and everything. Vesuvius, Etna, Krakatoa, Mount St. Helens, you name it: If it was a volcano, I thought it was pretty darn cool.
Well, not anymore. Now, I say: FUCK VOLCANOES!!!