While earlier generations attended events like Expositions and the World Fair to keep their finger on the pulse, you and I are living in the era of the TED Talk. TED2014, the event’s 30th anniversary conference, was held in Vancouver this week.

TED was launched in 1984, as a one-off private event with an emphasis on technology, entertainment and design. 30 years later, the event has become an unmissable forum for culture lovers from around the world, and is probably the most influential knowledge forum across the globe (TED Talk views passed the one billion mark in November 2012).

The core and guiding principle of the TED Talks has been improving the future, and making it more pleasant and safe. The event’s ability to integrate every discipline into its agenda highlights TED’s unswerving commitment to tomorrow. Audiences around the world have been fascinated and entertained by presentations on every field, from medicine or astrophysics, to performance and the cross-border revolution that 3D printing represents.


The line-up of speakers talking at the event was something of a who’s who of intellectuals, scientists, activists and provocateurs, including astronaut Chris Hadfield and Bill Gates, now devoted body and soul to his foundation. They and many others shared their knowledge, ideas and ambitions around improving the future.

However, there’s no denying that the TED global phenomenon has been criticised as being elitist. When you hear about the $7,500 entry fee (for an annual membership) maybe you’ll agree. Admittedly, the rest of us can eventually view TED talks online, but obviously that is nothing compared to the experience of attending the event.

Then there are the thinkers who consider TED as a way of combining capitalism and globalisation with a spiritual and ethical mission – resulting in a utopian vision that can seem a little to good to be true. TED’s been holding its conferences for 30 years now, and yet despite their promises of reinventing the world, curating the future and generating enthusiasm for a better tomorrow, there doesn’t seem to have actually been a lot of progress. Are they over simplifying the concepts involved in such a lifty ambition? Are they achieving their purpose or are they just pretending to be something that are not?

Have a look at this TEDx talk in San Diego by Benjamin Bratton, where he talks about the concept of TED itself – what do you make of it?