I always held TED and the speeches that came out of it with high regard and respect, but if this article by Alex Pareene in Salon is any indication, the non-profit foundation seems to have turned into nothing more than a money-making organization designed to stroke the ego of the rich. Disappointing.
Before streaming video, TED was a conference -- it is not named for a person, but stands for "technology, entertainment and design" -- organized by celebrated "information architect" (fancy graphic designer) Richard Saul Wurman. Wurman sold the conference, in 2002, to a nonprofit foundation started and run by former publisher and longtime do-gooder Chris Anderson (not the Chris Anderson of Wired). Anderson grew TED from a woolly conference for rich Silicon Valley millionaire nerds to a giant global brand. It has since become a much more exclusive, expensive elite networking experience with a much more prominent public face -- the little streaming videos of lectures.
It's even franchising -- "TEDx" events are licensed third-party TED-style conferences largely unaffiliated with TED proper -- and while TED is run by a nonprofit, it brings in a tremendous amount of money from its members and corporate sponsorships. At this point TED is a massive, money-soaked orgy of self-congratulatory futurism, with multiple events worldwide, awards and grants to TED-certified high achievers, and a list of speakers that would cost a fortune if they didn't agree to do it for free out of public-spiritedness.