The more I live life, the more I’ve come to realize that the input stream of data that we experience every day is like a flavor.
There’s the flavor of my Facebook stream, the flavor of my email (personal and business). There’s the flavor of people trying to get my attention on Linked In. There’s the flavor of the news. There’s the flavor of the books I read, the apps I engage in, the music I listen to. And then there’s the flavor of my own friends and family and the daily goings on of a life full of to do’s.
Last week I attended TEDActive 2015 in Whistler, a simulcast event coinciding with TED’s annual conference held in Vancouver. More than 700 people attended; and if life’s data streams can each be equated to a flavor, then TEDActive is like an ice cream sundae.
The thing about TED and TEDActive that’s so powerful is our immersion into the bowl of ice cream for a full week. Now, to be fair, anything that immersive is going to make a big impact on your life. The flavor of TEDActive lingers in my brain especially through the variety of technologies that allow us to keep the flavor alive, e.g. an app called TED Connect, a Facebook group, access to all of the TED Talks (which allows me to relive the ones I saw and catch up on the ones I missed when I had to bail out to take a nap in order to catch up on sleep from the 3AM party the night before).
But even were we to compare TEDActive to a weeklong yoga retreat in Arizona or a weeklong excursion to Burning Man (which, in full disclosure, I’ve never attended), or a weeklong health getaway to a Costa Rican organic food resort, I still believe TED and TEDActive have something special to share to which no other flavor compares: and that’s global connectivity.
Any powerful experience can rock the brain, massage the neurons and coax oxytocin from our synapses and glands. But the underlying TED concept is global and growing exponentially: the power of ideas worth spreading. TEDx, the localized, all volunteer, community organized version of TED has reached all corners of the Earth; and a large plurality, if not majority of TEDActive attendees were, in fact, TEDx organizers from around the world.
Attending, for example, Lollapalooza, or even Woodstock, can have a lasting impact on your life and your mind, can fill you with memories, can be a pivotal moment in a personal journey, can alter the course of your life, could even alter the course of a generation, but a multi-day rock concert, or week long retreat doesn’t connect thousands of people to thousands of other people, to potentially billions of people, once the music has died down and once the memories have faded. TED does.
The exponential growth of TED, it’s affiliate events, the amplification of the ideas shared at any and ALL TED events through TED Talks and TED.com, have started a revolution. Like a web, descending, expanding, growing organically from within, TED is permeating the very fabric of society, bringing people from urban centers and small towns together in the name of intelligence and tolerance. TED has become a platform for ideas and is approaching critical mass, a tipping point, whereupon an idea or vision of a better future can resonate throughout a global network within minutes of being released onto a local stage.
There are many platforms for messaging in today’s modern world, many outlets for social commentary, many microphones for verbal assault, many distribution points for flavored concoctions of all kinds, but TED, I believe, is something special, a special flavor, one that I crave and one that millions of global citizens are developing a taste for. Once you’ve savored the flavor of TED, it’s sobering to taste some of the other media streams that pass for intelligent debate. They’re second rate. If you’ve attended a TEDx event, you know a little of what I mean. If you’ve attended a major TED event, you’ve absorbed the flavor of hope and possibility and civility and creativity and curiosity and change, deep into your veins, deep into your brain; and from there and then, thankfully to TED, and to the marvels of 21st century technology and social connectivity, you will never be the same.