It's the two weeks of the year that I think of as "Big Think" time.
Davos in Switzerland, then TED this year in Long Beach.
Davos is the conference of politics, finance, and world economics. TED has always been the conference of artists, scientists, explorers, and the social sciences.
While TED is not a political event, in fact folks at TED eschew any conversations that lean toward partisan politics, last years TED clearly had feeling of a room full of passionate hog-tied idealists.
The first time I heard Al Gore speak about the environment was at TED, where he presented his eye-opening slide show about Global Warming. For years TED has been deeply concerned about the environment, and scientists have presented evidence of the rapid melting of the glaciers even as the Bush Administration steadfastly denied the evidence.
TED presenter Alan Russell showed jaw-dropping images of Salamanders re-growing limbs, evidence that regenerative medicine was not a fantasy but a reality. Even as the Bush Administration stood firmly in the way of all but the most pedestrian of stem cell research.
And there was Samantha Powers, telling the story of Sergio Vieira de Mello the UN diplomat. He was killed in the Canal Hotel bombing in Iraq along with 21 other members of his staff on August 19, 2003 while working as the Secretary-General's Special Representative in Iraq. She tells his story with passion - even as audience members are thinking about Powers comments about Hillary Clinton that have Obama supporters thinking about just how fragile the election is. Powers "Obama" sticker was one of the rare political statements in a room thinking issues, but with politics hanging thick in the air.Remarkable talks - and remarkable passion. Hungry to make change and impact the world. The smartest people I've ever spent time with, thinking about the environment, medicine, human Rights.
One year ago, the problems loomed large -- and the obstacles seemed impenetrable.
One year later - there is no doubt that the problems are larger, but I expect TED to be a very different experience. Change is in the air. That isn't all good for sure, economic change is hard. And dramatic, world changing, economic change is creating challenges that have geopolitical impact that these folks know far better than most. Yet, I don't expect TED to be gloomy in the way that Davos is.
Why? Because the CHANGE that's going on shifts power and opportunity from the politicians and bankers that inhabit Davos, to the thinkers and builders and do-ers that will arrive at TED.
This year's TED is titled; The Great Unveiling. And what will be revealed will take the idea of Change and provide a list of real, actionable, and likley things that can, and will, change in the weeks and months ahead.
Thinking about change is easy. Making change is hard. But if there were ever a group of individuals willing to roll up their sleeves and get started, they'll be in Long Beach, California next week. I hope Barack can swing by (Bill Clinton and Al Gore were both there last year) but even if Obama doesn't make it (he's a little busy) you can be sure that he'll be in every conversation, and on everyone's mind.
TED is a good place to find changes that are worth embracing.