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DeserTED

DeserTED
culture

Yesterday marked the unveiling of the TED prize, an annual award given to 3 ‘world-changers’ granting them each $100K to fulfill their philanthropic wish. We attended the Chelsea, NYC screening of the event, sponsored by TED, to (remotely) take part in the live unveiling as well as get a sense of the local TEDophile community. The community, however, was distinctly missing.  Whether it was NYC’s brutally cold weather, low interest or poor promoting, only about 15 people showed up to the large theatre (the crowd at the award ceremony seemed kind

David Friedlander
  • 6 february 2009

Yesterday marked the unveiling of the TED prize, an annual award given to 3 ‘world-changers’ granting them each $100K to fulfill their philanthropic wish.

We attended the Chelsea, NYC screening of the event, sponsored by TED, to (remotely) take part in the live unveiling as well as get a sense of the local TEDophile community. The community, however, was distinctly missing.  Whether it was NYC’s brutally cold weather, low interest or poor promoting, only about 15 people showed up to the large theatre (the crowd at the award ceremony seemed kind of thin too).

Nevertheless, the two-hour-plus screening was interesting for a few reasons.  Chief amongst them was a decidedly un-TED-like orchestration of the conference.  Whereas the online talks are wonderfully edited, the live broadcast was fraught with the typical glitches found at most conferences:  no podium for the first winner Jill Tarter, mixed-up slides on a presentation, a sleeping wife of winner Jose Abreu, no internet connectivity for an online display and so on.  Chris Anderson, TED’s “curator” and CEO, seemed particularly frazzled as host, trying to control an obdurate audience who he asked repeatedly for “suggestions” to carry out the wishes, and yet continually received “questions” that couldn’t be answered in his timeline.

The winners—SETI researcher Tarter, oceanographer Sylvia Earle and music advocate Abreu—each presented wonderful projects.  Yet we couldn’t help but notice something they all were lacking: youth.  Tarter, the kid of the bunch, is well into her 60’s.  It makes you think—and this is perhaps a general critique of TED, which is a consortium of the very established—what if the prizes were awarded to people not so established? Forward thinkers without the years of experience to make them legends, but with the passion and vision to serve as inspirations to younger generations?

By far, the highlights of the evening were the music interludes from pianist Eric Lewis, a 35 year-old Camden NJ native, and Gustavo Dudamel, the 28 year-old Venezuelan LA Philharmonic maestro and Abreu-trained wunderkind.  Their talent managed to fill the space.. when people did not.


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