Every year, a thousand or so people from around the world gather to cross-pollinate. Brain scientists talk with filmmakers. Architects hang out with anthropologists. Internet entrepreneurs have a coffee with artists and musicians. Strangers meet, old friends connect, and global conversations start with real world human conversations. The event is called TED, and this is year is it's 30th year anniversary. A lot has changed in 30 years. Thirty years ago Nicholas Negroponte opened up TED. Today, Negroponte was back to open TED.
In his first TED Talk, Negroponte said we'd move from the computer mouse to using our fingers to control interfaces.
In 1995 Negroponte was called crazy for predicting "that we'll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Internet."
Today Negroponte says that the buzz around "the Internet of Things is tragically pathetic." He says that the idea wasn't just to put an oven control panel on your phone -- but to make the oven intelligent. "You want to put the chicken in the oven and it realizes you're cooking it for Nicholas and he likes it this way."
Today, Negroponte asks the question: "Will Internet access be a human right?"
Negroponte makes a far-fetched prediction, in the future: "We are going to ingest information -- we're going to swallow a pill and know English and swallow a pill and know Shakespeare," says Negroponte. "It will go through the bloodstream and it will know when it's in the brain and, in the right places, it deposits the information."
Later that day when TED Curator Chris Anderson surprised the room and invited Edward Snowden on stage, the room sat up and took notice. Snowden arrived via remote robot -- and Anderson interacted with the remote Snowden as if he was in the room. So much so that Snowden-bot after his TED Talk exited the stage and "walked the loop" running into Google's Sergey Brin for this impromptu photo-op. TEDsters didn't immediately all embrace Snowden, but much like his appearance at the SXSW conference in Austin the week before, you could feel his efforts to engage the tech community begin to thaw critics.
"Trusting any government authority with the entirety of human communications without any oversight is too great a temptation to be ignored" said Snowden. Anderson invited World Wide Web founder Tim Berners Lee on stage to join the conversation with Showden, and Berners Lee was quick to proclaim him a hero.
In the first two days, the stage was chock full of leaders, visionaries, and dreamers. From Larry Page to Bill and Melinda Gates, to musician Amanda Palmer. But unlike the TED of old - the new TED isn't a closed door secret society. In fact, it's increasingly open. The main stage presentations were streamed free for local Vancouver schools, and to TEDx groups around the world. And TED talks from the 5 day event will be put online -- for free -- over the course of the year. Already the Edward Snowden talk is live -- and more talks will go live in the coming days.
With more the 2 billion views logged on the web -- and growing -- it's clear that TED is proving that knowledge, ideas, and innovation are driving a new kind of video. A new network of ideas -- that's certainly an idea worth spreading.
Follow Steve Rosenbaum on Twitter: www.twitter.com/waaywire