Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 10th, 2011

Technology, Education, & Development (TED) corporation: Who is Chris Anderson?

The weekly British The Observer published a long portrait of Chris Anderson, and described him as global “master of ideas”. Chris is a man of media who is doing his best to becoming a source of real information acceding to the real world”.

Chris has been organizing “TED Talks” since 2001, and disseminated all kinds of topics. The talks are accessible on Internet, and TED is celebrating the visit of 500 million users to its varied talks.

Every year, TEDGlobal invites specialists in many domain of knowledge, with objective of extending “an idea worth disseminating” in less than 18 minutes.

The latest event was held in Edinburgh between 11 to 15 of July. Over 70 speakers took turn on the podium. Chris declared: “I am persuaded that these conferences could have impacts on every one of us, aid us reach a higher level of mental development“.

Chris was born in Pakistan in 1957 and studied in India. His parents were missionaries.

He earned a diploma in philosophy from Oxford and worked for the written press and radio.  Later, Chris created two media groups: Future Publishing and Imagine Media (focusing on mass public electronic advances).

As the enterprises of Chris developed and flourished, he instituted a non-lucrative private foundation “The Sapling Foundation” with goal of discovering “New ways of resolving global problems, taking advantage of media, technology, entrepreneurship, and ideas”.

In 2001,  The Sapling Foundation acquires TED, and Chris quit the world of business to concentrate his energy to TED corporation. The yearly conferences are reserved for the elite classes who can afford high fees, but all the talks are then licensed (for free?) to local entrepreneurs wishing to disseminate the talks in their communities and States.

Chris boast that “Only in TED can we ask critical questions and reply with a variety of approaches and alternatives”.

Many obscure professors and authors managed to get world recognition simply by being selected and chaperoned to speak on TED conferences.  The speakers are trained to give the image of rock stars as they take the podium.

Chris has offered a free video support on Internet and enlarged access to ideas. The next objective is “to constitute a knowledge-base of pedagogic resources that all classrooms in the world may access and use…”

Note 1: I have published many articles on TED speakers. Currently, I was focusing on the speakers in TEDxRamallah and TEDxBeirut. For example,

Note 2: This article extracted a few information from a piece published in the French weekly Courrier International # 1082

Is Imagination a better quality than Smart? Comparing TEDxRamallah and TEDxBeirut

Note: I have attended both events of TEDxRamallah (last summer in Beirut) and TEDxBeirut (this summer). My comparison will focus on imaginative thinking and smart processes. TEDXRamallah was organized by Palestinians in Ramallah and Jordan, and shown direct in a small theater in Beirut. This event was a catalyst for a group of Lebanese to try their hands at organizing the event in Beirut. TEDxBeirut was a huge success attracting over 750 people in the auditorium of a high-tech institution.

Does an Imaginative person refers to someone who can do things in a different way than the “masses” do, (people being carried away by the common sense dicta)?  Is a smart person someone who comprehended the customs and tradition of his community and is capable of emulating their methods of thinking and satisfying the community wants and desires?

For example, Steve Jobs claimed that “consumers have no idea what they want” and went ahead and set a trend. Is that what we call a tendency for imagination?  But then, when Steve Jobs and Apple emulated all the other companies in turning a blind eye on sweatshop factories that manufacture their product, are we within the Smart-ass side of vision?

Does the difference between Imaginative and smart extends to the technical matters?  For example, can we say that a smart person accepts the consensus standards of methods and logics and is capable of applying them in his field?  Is the imaginative person someone frequently looking at a problem from different perspectives in order to discovering a shortcut or a better way of resolving a problem? Is looking at various perspectives a one time shot or it might generate into a trend in handling problems?

Could we extend this concept into groups? For example, we say this community is imaginative because it considered alternative solutions, while that community is smart for taking advantage of knowing the system and working a solution within the system from “Ine to2kal al katef”?

Would you be wasting time and resources if you do things just like everyone else is doing? Does investing time and energy to find a shortcut in order to figure out a way to do things differently a worthy endeavor?  Does a smart person necessarily lack imagination?  How would you define a person who is frequently looking t problems from different perspectives in order to resolve the difficulty? Is this characteristic of considering problems from various perspective resulting from Smart or Imagination? Does mankind needs more of the Smart or the Imaginative kinds of people?  To doing what? Toward which goal and objective?

Let us read this inspirational post from (a main organizer of TEDxBeirut) and analyze what behavior (smart or imaginative) transpires. (Words and sentences in parenthesis are mine).

Under the title “How TEDxBeirut showed me that you can handle much more than your wildest dreams” William Choukeir wrote:
“This is not a story about me. It’s a story about YOU (meaning the team of volunteers). Through my eyes.
While organizing TEDxBeirut, I had so much to do that I barely had 3 hours of sleep even night, for 1 month straight. I barely slept a single hour during the last week. I was eating in the car while driving. I also made most of my phone calls in the car.

During all this time, I was still running my design studio, at a reduced load (personal enterprise), but it was still running nonetheless. We were still working on the time-sensitive projects (that we had contract on).

At the studio, we were also doing everything (related) to design and communication for TEDxBeirut. The website, T-shirts, emails, event catalog, banners, sponsor kits, business cards, invitations, etc.

In addition to that, I was meeting TEDxBeirut speakers, almost on a daily basis, starting at 3 or 4 pm, and coaching them, and refining their talks.

I was receiving around 300 emails a day. Toward the last 2 weeks, I was clearing my inbox every other day. I was taking and making so my phone calls that my phone bill surpassed $300 that month.

I also spent time supporting Hanane in her times of crisis. Because without her, I and everything around me would crumble. Hanane is my partner in life and in work. She’s the pillar that supports me. I stand in the spotlight, but she deserves all the credit. I’m just a facade.

In addition to all of these (tasks), I was still sitting with my thoughts every day. I was still writing my notes every day ( Even on event day. I was still showering and brushing my teeth.

And yet, I didn’t crack. I didn’t crumble. Not that it was easy. On the contrary. Not that I wasn’t on the verge of collapse. I was. But I didn’t. I hung in there. I saw it through. I realized that I am capable of handling far more than I ever thought possible.

But this isn’t my story. This is the story of Patricia, our curator. This is the story of Ziad. This is the story of Aya. This is the story of Sandra. This is the story of Joseph. This is the story of Farah, of Fatimah, of Rytta, of Marc, of Zeina, and of every single person that was at the core of TEDxBeirut.

I’m not the hero. We all are. I’m not the only one capable of handling much more that I ever thought possible. We all are. And that’s how I realized that anyone, yes anyone, can handle much more than we all ever imagined.

YOU can handle much more than your wildest dreams. Just throw yourself out there. You’ll see. You’ll come through.We all did.” End of quote.

Could you deduce from the previous post whether TEDxBeirut was driven by imaginative thinking or pure smart hard work?

For example, candidate speakers were to submit a one-minute video.  Candidates didn’t receive any feedback for the reasons of declining their candidacy. Is this attitude a smart behavior for organizing events.  Suppose the organizers used the video as an excuse to meeting face to face with candidates and investigate the range of limitations and inspiration of the candidate, would that decision be within the imaginative behavior?

Why do I have this strong feeling that TEDxRamallah had a stronger impact on me?  Is it because it was the first event that I attended live?  This event was held in a small theater (barely 300 attendees) and it lacked the technical power that Beirut organizers managed to install and run; and yet, I felt sweet vibrations that have nothing to do with feeling amazed by technology. The Ramallah event was well-organized in its simplicity, and I enjoyed the compact atmosphere of engaged people to listen to “what’s going on in Palestine and in the Arab World”.

Can TEDxBeirut organizers claim that the audience had this feeling of “What’s going on in Lebanon? What’s going on in the Arab World after the spring upheavals?”  Did the audience appreciated the potentials for change and reforms? I had the net realization that women speakers tackled Lebanon socio/political problems, and actually offered tangible, pragmatic projects and programs to resolving our problems.

I sincerely wish the TEDxBeirut organizers refrain from throwing in this statement: “We were shooting to be global”.  That would insult my intelligence and imagination.

How can you think global if you are immature in comprehending the limitations and needs of your own community? Worst, lacking the desire to get engaged in changing Lebanon rotten political/social structure?

Note: Attached are links to the first session of both events and you may take it from there




October 2011

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