Opinion Column

Money talks when TED hits Vancouver

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

Microsoft’s Bill Gates isn’t likely to start an anti-corporate revolution when he speaks at TED Talks in Vancouver.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates isn’t likely to start an anti-corporate revolution when he speaks at TED Talks in Vancouver. (REUTERS)

Each new ‘big idea’ to ‘inspire the world’ and ‘change everything’ pitched from the TED stage reminds me of the swamp root and snake oil liniment being sold from a wagon a hundred years past. — Nathan Jurgenson, social media sociologist

When TED Talks, money glistens. And now it’s here in Vancouver, selling what may be snake oil solutions to the well-heeled and well-intentioned.

Who in their right mind would pay $7,500 US per person for the five-day TED event — starting March 17 at the Vancouver Convention Centre — when many of the talks get posted online for free?

But don’t worry about TED — the 1,200 seats for the non-profit Technology, Entertainment, Design extravaganza are long sold out.

However, you can try to be a “TEDster” at next year’s Vancouver Truth and Dare event, where the price jumps to $8,500 US. Good luck getting in because you have to “apply” to attend — along with having a big limit on your credit card.

Or become a TED donor next year for just $17,000 US and get more networking benefits. And you could go all in for $150,000 US patron status for five years.

There’s also the chance to become a corporate sponsor like Walmart, Target, CitiBank, Google, Disney, Toyota and others this year for even bigger money.

“Ideas worth spreading” is TED’s slogan, but are they really?

Or do TED Talks instead promote corporate technology solutions to problems that require far more fundamental political change?

As social media expert Nathan Jurgenson wrote: “TED and the larger TED-like world of Silicon Valley corporatism have far too much importance.

“There are consequences to having this style of discourse dominate how technology’s role in society is understood. Where are the voices critical of corporatism?”

Well, not likely speaking at the Vancouver TED event. Somehow I don’t think Microsoft’s Bill Gates — the world’s richest man — will spend his 18 minutes starting that revolution.

Despite all this, not everything about TED Talks is bad.

Interesting speakers, diverse views, potentially game-changing ideas — all dynamically delivered in 18 minutes or less, then mostly made available free online.

But as Jurgenson put it: “At TED, everyone is Steve Jobs and every idea is treated like an iPad.”

In the real world, TED Talks can be simply tedious, but the money definitely glistens.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read more at billtieleman.blogspot.com Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman 


Would you attend TED Talks for $7,500 if you could get it?

Reader's comments »

By adding a comment on the site, you accept our terms and conditions