We Need to Talk About TEDx

In the TEDx Talk embedded above, visionary artist Alex Grey gives a touching and humorous account of his journey as an artist, his metamorphosis from depressed loner to spiritually fulfilled family man, and the power of creativity, spirituality, and art in transforming our world through the transformation of human consciousness. It is inspiring and thought-provoking. And, if the recent TED debacle involving talks by Graham Hancock and Rupert Sheldrake are anything to go by, it will soon be removed from YouTube by TED, due to Alex discussing 'pseudoscientific' ideas such as psychic energies, global consciousness and the power of prayer, as well as 'promoting' the use of illicit drugs such as LSD and ayahuasca.

Now to be clear: I am not challenging TED to take this talk down in order to maintain consistency with the previous action of removing talks by Hancock and Sheldrake! Quite the opposite in fact. What it again highlights though, I think, is how badly TED got it wrong with the previous talks, and it goes back to the original decision that they needed to 'patrol' TEDx talks (which are talks given at independently organised events, sanctioned under the umbrella of the well-respected - at least until recently - TED brand name) for 'pseudoscientific' ideas. TED stands for 'Technology, Entertainment, Design', and their tagline is "Ideas worth spreading". I'm not sure at what stage they shifted to feeling like they were a promoter for orthodox scientific thought, but it was a strange leap to make...some of their most popular talks have featured more spiritual and emotional topics, such as Jill Bolte Taylor's presentation about her experience of having a stroke, and Elizabeth Gilbert's call to return to the concept of 'muses', with an explicit challenge to modern, rational philosophy.

Now, as I said previously, TED has to be allowed to protect its brand name and reputation - even Rupert Sheldrake agrees that "there's a lot of rubbish and there has to be some kind of filter". Where TED got it wrong though is in reacting to pressure from orthodox (and in some cases, militant/fundamentalist) science advocates, and deciding they had to remove anything that had the slightest whiff of anti- or pseudo-science about them for fear of being castigated or ridiculed. I'm sure TED feels like it has to keep well-known scientists on its side for future validity. But even moreso it needs to keep well-informed viewers interested and engaged with ideas that provoke the mind. Sheldrake challenged what he calls the 'dogmas' of science head-on, but did so out of a love for science and the advancement of knowledge. Hancock presented alternative theories of evolution and consciousness worth considering, but explicitly couched them as speculative. There is little doubt that TED over-reacted in removing both of those talks, and their regrettable, spurious post-hoc reasoning for doing so stands as stark evidence of that conclusion.

This week the TED fiasco got even more farcical when they pulled the plug on the upcoming TEDxWestHollywood, with a theme named "Brother can you spare a paradigm". The speakers involved included scientists such as Marilyn Schlitz from the Institute of Noetic Sciences and remote-viewing pioneer Russell Targ, and TED officials looked into some sort of (very rational!) crystal ball they have and predicted that some of the speakers would "use the language of science to claim they have proven the truth of ideas that are speculative". That statement lies at the heart of the problem with their takedown of Hancock and Sheldrake's talks as well - they seem to be extrapolating from people talking about concepts, and presenting challenges to orthodoxy, to them claiming objective truth (when, if you watch those talks, you'll see they carefully frame their talks so as *not* to do that). If TED want to present 'ideas worth spreading', then they need to begin with 'ideas worth discussing'. Not 'ideas we should probably censor'.

TED have a major problem. They have now set a benchmark where some of their most popular talks should be removed to comply with their own guidelines, as applied to Hancock, Sheldrake and TEDxWestHollywood. They will also, to be consistent, be compelled other fantastic talks, such as Alex Grey's talk above. All because of a lack of bravery in the face of criticism from the establishment. TED's recent actions have been gutless, showing a lack of leadership in the face of some rather petty criticisms, and a lack of willingness to believe in the free market of ideas, where the strong and good survive through rigorous discussion and debate. And also by believing, for some strange reason, that "ideas worth spreading" must have some basis in rational, materialist science.

Here's a thought experiment for TED officials: Mahatma Gandhi gives a talk at TEDxNewDelhi discussing non-violence, and the idea that God is Truth and Truth is God. Are his ideas worth spreading, or do you not want to be associated with them? It's time for TED to get back in the market of discussing and spreading ideas, rather than deciding what is safe for people's consumption. More likely though, I think, is that they will soon either dissolve or take more of an active, controlling hand in their TEDx subsidiary. And other organisations will rise to fill the gap that hundreds of thousands of viewers wish to have filled, in presenting real discussions at the edge of our knowledge and philosophy.

Big, fresh ideas suffocate and die in controlling environments. So the real question might be: is TED on the fast-track into obsolescence?

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Greg H.'s picture
Member since:
12 June 2009
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1 week 5 days

All good things come to an end, either through hubris, greed, corruption, fear... Yet as Greg points out, the void that remains is eventually filled by others and the cycle begins anew.

Greg H.

red pill junkie's picture
Member since:
12 April 2007
Last activity:
1 day 3 hours

If only we could start the Grail Gatherings --ideas worth toasting to! :P

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie
_______________
@red_pill_junkie

gbv23's picture
Member since:
5 June 2006
Last activity:
5 weeks 5 days

I can't live in the boring flat-land of pure empiricism. The thinking of these reductionist folk is a mile-wide but an inch deep.
Can't folks discuss IDEAS, like the philosophy of science?

Elgon's picture
Member since:
3 March 2008
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3 weeks 6 days

> The whole text

Agreed.

---
The flap of a butterfly's wings in the Atlantic may cause it to fly.

Blue Planet Man's picture
Member since:
3 April 2013
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1 year 29 weeks

This is quite a thoughtfully written article with excellent examples. Good show.

Suzanne Taylor's picture
Member since:
9 July 2004
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1 year 29 weeks

Thanks for such a smart piece. The objective of mounting a TEDx event was to jostle the world into considerations of our outdated worldview. Perhaps we'll get even more attention now, as Rupert has mentioned in his posts. This problem could have a gift in its hand! Please spread the word to watch the streaming of our kick-ass program on April 14: https://new.livestream.com/extedwestholl...

Inannawhimsey's picture
Member since:
14 April 2009
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1 year 7 weeks

HP has an article on it

it grows and grows

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepak-cho...

---------
All that lives is holy, life delights in life.

--William Blake

Inannawhimsey's picture
Member since:
14 April 2009
Last activity:
1 year 7 weeks

HP has published an article by Chris Anderson http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-ande...

---------
All that lives is holy, life delights in life.

--William Blake

Inannawhimsey's picture
Member since:
14 April 2009
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1 year 7 weeks

Deepak Replies to Chris' reply :3

with a list of letters by prominent scientists

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepak-cho...

---------
All that lives is holy, life delights in life.

--William Blake

emlong's picture
Member since:
18 September 2007
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8 hours 58 min

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Le...

The more things change the more they stay the same.

Inannawhimsey's picture
Member since:
14 April 2009
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1 year 7 weeks

and some of the prominent scientists are actually commenting on that thread :3

---------
All that lives is holy, life delights in life.

--William Blake

Inannawhimsey's picture
Member since:
14 April 2009
Last activity:
1 year 7 weeks

Here's a link to the ressurection of the verboten outcast unclean TEDx with R Targ http://new.livestream.com/newparadigm/ne...

Here is a link to another letter by Ben Goertzel, who has done TEDx

http://wp.goertzel.org/?p=495

---------
All that lives is holy, life delights in life.

--William Blake