TED wants to remind us that ideas—not politicians—shape the future

Shared future.
Shared future.
Image: Ryan Lash/TED
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In less than a week, some of the world’s best minds will gather in Vancouver, Canada, for the TED conference. With the theme “The Future You” on its 33rd year, business and cultural celebrities will take turns expounding on their “idea worth sharing” in TED’s storied stage. Among this year’s speakers are Tesla founder Elon Musk, surgeon-writer Atul Gawande, tennis legend Serena Williams, chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, self-help guru Tim Ferris, and rock band OK Go.

Amid global political upheavals, TED curator Chris Anderson argues that ideas have never mattered more. ”Ideas changes how people act and [shape] their long term perspective,” he said in during a April 17 press briefing. “Politicians come and go and ideas are forever.”

He said TED—two segments of which will be broadcast live in movie theaters this year—wants to re-introduce civility into political discourse. “We want to avoid the zero sum game we see on cable television every day,” said Anderson, noting that TED is a non-partisan organization and has historically featured controversial and intriguing thinkers from both sides of the political divide. In place of the shrill, headline-bait tenor of political spectacles, TED wants to take viewers to a place of ”reasoned discourse” where big ideas can act as a bridge between opposing views.

TED curator Chris Anderson.
TED curator Chris Anderson.
Image: Marla Aufmuth/TED

By creating an eclectic program—including an entire session delivered in Spanish and another on artificial intelligence—Anderson said he wants to steer the conversation away from government and politics. “With so much focus in politics, the world is in danger of forgetting that so much of what really changes the future happens outside completely of politics. It happens inside the mind of dreamers, designers, inventors, technologists, entrepreneurs” he said.

TED Cinema

The decision to broadcast the conference in select movie theaters around the world will enable more people to see TED talks contemporaneously. For the price of a movie ticket, which in the US calculates to a roughly 98.7% discount off the $8,500 TED conference registration fee, one can watch two celebrity-packed sessions including the unveiling of TED prize winner Raj Panjabi‘s $1 million wish to improve health in the developing world and a ”best-of-the-conference” program headlined by an interview with Musk.