I think TED talks are the worst example of modern faux-intellectualism. Audience flattering, based on ego and personality, dripping with self-congratulation, they contribute to one of the great lies of our time, which is that the truth is entertaining and can be contained in bite-sized, ready-for-television aphorisms. The reality is that progress is hard, that knowledge making is a long and dispiriting slog, and that when ideas and solutions appear pat, cute, easy, or triumphant, they’re almost certainly wrong.
Mainly this is an excuse to trot out my favorite Bart Simpson quote: To those who say there are no easy answers I say you’re not looking hard enough!
As someone who’s given TEDx talks, yet is occasionally put off by just how much buzz these talks generate (or really, how ready some speakers are to point to hit counts as proof that They Are Taken Seriously) I can understand the criticism.
Yet there can be value in struggling to take a complex project and at the very least, show people enough of it to make them think that it would be worth investing their time and attention to see the whole thing. Good TED talks aren’t like music videos; they’re like movie previews.