Talk, talk, talk ILLUSTRATION: Alisa Yang

Talk, talk, talk

TEDxPasadena offers new ideas for Technology, Entertainment and Design

By Ellen Snortland 10/06/2011

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“YouTubing, texting and tweeting … doesn’t anyone just talk anymore?” growl the disgruntled techno-phobes in my life (and probably yours, too). And now, TED Talks! But who the hell is TED, and why does he talk so much?
These are some of the plaintive cries of the fogies, young and old. I’ve pledged that I am now on “fogey” red alert and invite others to join me. Please raise your right hands: “I hereby pledge to stay open to new technology, even though it makes me feel stupid, crazy and uncomfortable. I refuse to join the bandwagon of Luddites and techno-scaredy cats!” OK, the pledge needs work, but I hope you catch my drift. Tech needs YOU.
As far as TED Talking? TED isn’t a guy; rather, TED is the great, great granddaughter of the old-fashioned physical lecture circuit that our ancestors attended to be introduced to new-fangled ideas like bicycles, a Swedish singer named Jenny Lind and votes for women.
TED is actually T.E.D., the acronym for Technology, Entertainment and Design. TED is a conference of ideas that has been going on since the mid-1980s. There’s an international conference every summer now held in Edinburgh, Scotland, as well as the primary US conference that takes place in Long Beach each spring.
Because of the Internet and what are called TED Talks, many of us have received links to these videos in our email. TED is now a phenomenon that is global, local and hyper-local. The hyper-local TED events are called TEDx, but more about that “x” later.
TED speakers are forward-thinkers in their fields. They are given 18 minutes, and that’s it. It doesn’t matter if the TED speaker is Stephen Hawking or a modest street vendor; if the TED organizers think you have an idea worth spreading, you have 18 minutes to give the talk of your life in front of a live audience, which then appears online. The TED Web site says, “TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.”
Their mission, spreading ideas, is so simple. Spreading ideas is what communication is all about regardless of the medium. Human beings are nothing if not idea incubators. TED Talks are on the same branch of cultural evolution as the tribal fire pit where our ancestors sat and talked about the new plant they found for purple dye, listened to a song or revealed the discovery of flint, a technological innovation for sparking fire.
Now TEDx is gracing Pasadena, although there was a TEDx conference earlier this year at CalTech. The “x” behind TED means the conference is locally produced, but has the same mission and format as the national and international versions.
Social and local entrepreneur Greg Apodaca has pulled together an intrepid committee of volunteers to produce TEDx Pasadena for Oct. 22. Rather than listing the details, committee, sponsors, speakers and topics individually, here’s the link which you can peruse. ( Suffice to say, we have lots of ideas worth spreading and a day with us will be well worth the price of admission. (Yes, I’ll be a talker.)
Ideas need the eyes and ears, as well as years, of all generations to become most useful to society. What if a geezer’s view is exactly what that particular idea needs to fulfill its destiny? Ideas desperately need the female view as well. 
I just finished reading a book by science writer and journalist Jonnie Hughes called, “On the Origin of Teepees: The Evolution of Ideas (and Ourselves).” A must read, Hughes points out the differences in teepees on the Great Plains came about because women were the “carriers” of the teepee designs and would often be married into another tribe, thereby “evolving” teepee design. Ideas are contagious and evolve just as much as genes do. We need carriers! By attending TEDx, you become a carrier of ideas! Isn’t that cool?
If the national and international TED conferences have a flaw, it’s their gender bias for men. “TEDWomen” was held last year — a global event centered in Washington, DC. But I’m concerned that TEDWomen may become a gender “ghetto” where men aren’t exposed to the ideas that women are passionate about. I fervently believe men need to know what women are innovating and immerse themselves in the ideas that women themselves consider worth spreading. I’m proud to say that our TEDx Pasadena organizers have created a balanced speakers’ roster. And, if you come, I promise I won’t make you take the anti-fogey pledge. n

Ellen teaches a writing workshop in Altadena.


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