TED ACHE 2014 / final thoughts
It's 2:02am on Saturday here in Vancouver and I can't sleep. My head is literally buzzing with stories and ideas and images and connections, and even the warm body of my wife, and the fatigue of now seven days on the road can't settle me down. Long time TEDsters refer to my state as a TEDache; but I think of it as something akin to information overload. A cascade of content that swirls uncontrollably in my sub-conscious mind, people and stories and emotional crescendos so powerful, I am literally swept away by it all. For the first three days, I tried to Tackk about the details of this conference, but the details are now lost in a flood of feeling, so there will be no more daily Tackks. That said, I do encourage you to visit TED's own blog at http://blog.ted.com/ and read it backwards, as it highlights almost every session of the last five days, and in reading it in a single sitting you may come close to the sense of fullness I feel as I battle with sleeplessness here in Vancouver. As an aside, this is the scene outside my window, a quiet city sleeping under the still glow of that beautiful Janet Echelman sculpture I shared in my Day1 Tackk.
So here's the thing about TED...it is quite literally unlike any conference I have ever attended. And in truth, it is not a conference at all, but instead, I think, the closest you can come to falling through Alice's looking glass into a parallel world fueled by curiosity, possibility, creativity, vulnerability, and most of all, a relentlessly optimistic sense of humanity. The sheer volume of presenters is unmatched; but more impressively, their diversity spans the alphabet of human innovation and self-expression - from artists, activists, scientists, and criminals to philosophers, writers, astronauts, politicians, and all the rest of us. This stew of ideas and inspiration is perfectly curated by Chris Anderson's increasingly nuanced and soulful direction; and is brought to life by a passionate army of TED staff and partners who then share this content with the world. That's right, think about that for a second. This conference which this year cost $7500 for attendees (of which there were more than 800), and $17,000 for donors (of which their were more than 400), and $100,000 for patrons (of which there were more than 50); this conference literally gives the content away to the world once its over. And it does so in a dazzling array of initiatives. TED Talks, it's signature distribution platform, has delivered more than 2,000,000,000 (that's billion) talks so far. TEDx, the free license which allows almost any local group to run its own TED program, has facilitated more than 9000 events in more than 150 countries. TEDEd, it's recently launched education platform allows teachers anywhere to submit their best lessons which are then animated and placed on a learning platform for any teacher in the world to use with her students. This program is signing up 300 teachers & 700 students every single week. And TED continues to experiment with how to democratize the content that comes out of these platforms, launching the TED radio hour (NPR's fastest growing show in history), and even launching a TED book publishing enterprise in partnership with Simon & Schuster. My point is that not only is the conference content overwhelming, the reach and ambition of TED itself simply boggles the mind.
Yesterday, Andrew Solomon, a writer on politics, culture and psychology, closed out this year's TED with an eloquent and emotional display of personal vulnerability in which he shared his experiences being bullied as a young gay man and talked about how those events, and others that followed, allowed him to build identity and forge meaning in his life. It was the perfect punctuation at the end of a mesmerizing week in Vancouver.
And so, sitting here at what is now 2:48am, I guess the thing I most want to communicate is that I come to TED not because the ticket is pricey & exclusive (which it is), or the venue is jaw-droppingly beautiful (which it is), or the food is healthy & abundant (which it is), or the people are approachable & inspirational (which they are) - but because inevitably throughout this week TED makes me cry, and cheer, and stare in amazement -- and ultimately TED reminds me that anything is possible if we only dare to be brave.