This is a bit contrarian, but still a healthy argument against TED, the Technology, Entertainment, and Design conference.
We live in a world of increasingly networked knowledge. And it’s a world that allows us to appreciate what has always been true: that new ideas are never sprung, fully formed, from the heads of the inventors who articulate them, but are always — always — the result of discourse and interaction and, in the broadest sense, conversation. The author-ized idea, claimed and owned and bought and sold, has been, it’s worth remembering, an accident of technology. Before print came along, ideas were conversational and free-wheeling and collective and, in a very real sense, “spreadable.” It wasn’t until Gutenberg that ideas could be both contained and mass-produced — and then converted, through that paradox, into commodities. TED’s notion of “ideas worth spreading” — the implication being that spreading is itself a work of hierarchy and curation — has its origins in a print-based world of bylines and copyrights. It insists that ideas are, in the digital world, what they have been in the analog: packagable and ownable and claimable.