The Revolt against TED

Evgeny Morozov in the New Republic on TED conferences:

Today TED is ...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, ... projects become talks, talks become books—and so it goes ad infinitum ... until any shade of depth or nuance disappears into the virtual “ideas worth spreading” become “ideas no footnotes can support.”

Why is he so upset? Christopher Shea at WSJ Ideas Market summarizes and shares Morozov's revulsion at the "distinctively TED-style attitude toward politics in which institutions and democratic debate are derided and technology is looked to as a deus ex machina that will solve such once-intractable problems as poverty and illiteracy."

Morozov's critique comes in the middle of a review of a self-parodying manifesto from TED Books Hybrid Reality: Thriving in the Emerging Human-Technology Civilization, By Parag Khanna and Ayesha Khanna. He continues:

That they can spit out the following passage without running any risk of being disinvited from respectable dinner parties and television shows is a sign of how well our debate about technology—a seemingly neutral and nonpolitical issue—conceals deeply political (and, in this case, outright authoritarian) tendencies:

(Quote from the Khannas' book:) " ...nonfunctional democracies ...are prime candidates to be superseded by better-designed technocracies—likely delivering more benefits to their citizens.... To the extent that China provides guidance for governance that Western democracies don’t, it is in having “technocrats with term limits.”

Morozov keeps piling on to the end:

That solving any of their favorite global problems would require political solutions—if only to ensure that nobody’s rights and interests are violated or overlooked in the process— is not something that the TED elite, with its aversion to conventional instruments of power and its inebriated can-do attitude, likes to hear. ....TED’s techno-humanitarians—{are nother} brigade of what the Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole has dubbed “The White Savior Industrial Complex."

Can't wait to hear Morozov's TED talk...

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