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How Web Video Is Igniting a Massive Cycle of Innovation

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Online video has a bad rap. Mention YouTube and an endless landscape of adolescent narcissism and mindless distraction comes to mind. Given that humanity is now watching well over 100m hours of online video every day, this sounds a like a problem. But in the TED talk we're releasing today, I argue that the rise of online video could turn out to be as significant as the invention of print.

Because hidden among all the cute kittens and pirated TV shows, online video is driving astonishing innovation in thousands of different fields ranging from the ultra-niche to the sharing of truly world-changing ideas.

Contrary to the romantic myth, innovation doesn't usually come from lone geniuses and their eureka moments. It emerges when groups of people spark off each other. One of the most significant aspects of the web is that it has brought together vastly larger groups than ever before in history, and thereby sparked massive new types of innovation. For example the open source movement would not really have been possible before the web brought programmers together.

Similar explosions in innovation have happened in music, photography and animation, to name but three. But what these fields have in common is that people's work output could be easily shared digitally. Photographs, MP3 files,software programs. The reason online video is so significant, is that it is now allowing the rest of the world's talents to be shared digitally.

Dig under the surface of today's visual web, and you'll see an explosion of grassroots-driven innovation and experimentation everywhere you look, both trivial and epic.

The reason it's happening is a two-fold hit -- revelation + motivation.

Revelation: for the first time, people can see what the very best people across the globe are capable of. A world of possibility opens up.

Motivation: if you can do something innovative and special, you get thousands of people viewing your work and talking about you. It's intoxicating. And it's driving hundreds and hundreds of hours of effort from potential innovators across the globe.

In a small way, we've noticed it on our own website TED.com. Ever since we started posting TED talks online, speakers started raising their game. They could see what great TED talks looked like. And they had a greater motivation to shine. So the amount of preparation going into each talk rose dramatically. But the phenomenon is everywhere, and it has the potential to transform any organization and give an amazing platform to any individual. I call it Crowd Accelerated Innovation, and I think it's about to ignite the biggest learning cycle in human history.

Check it out!

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