Ted Conference or Bil Conference?

Bil Conference

Here at the blog I have noted before that I think the Ted conference has a pretty high elitist component, and although I’ve warmed to the idea that most of the speakers there have important things to say I’m still concerned that the TED and other expensive conference formats somehow create a lot of unintended biases and effectively censor people and content in a way that is akin to our problems with US politics where purchasing access to things trumps giving access to the maximum number of innovative and clever ideas and deserving people.

There is now an alternative UNconference called the Bil Conference, and to TEDs credit they appear to be supportive of this venue which will be just after and near the location of TED, but won’t cost to attend.

Of course *free* conferences can also suffer from the challenges of non-representativeness.    I do think the costs of transportation and lodging provide a barrier to entry that keeps out those who are just looking for a free lunch or to annoy people from the soap box provided by UNconferences to anyone who cares to speak.

I won’t be attending TED or Bil this year though I’ll be down there for MashupCamp later in March.   TED blog

9 thoughts on “Ted Conference or Bil Conference?

  1. I don’t think that’s a fair assessment of TED. They have opened up their conference through TEDTalks. Millions of people can now experience and share a large body of content.

    Also, keep in mind that the conference fees go back into The Sapling Foundation, the 501(c)(3) charitable foundation behind TED, which supports their general operations, including the TED Prize. I think Chris Anderson and their entire team have been doing exceptional work. That they are supportive of BIL is another testament to their character.

  2. Tyler if you think that was critical you *really* won’t like my previous posts about TED:

    I agree that TED has done some *excellent* work to create *theoretical* outreach and access for the 99.9% of the global population who can’t afford to attend. Also agree that they have made some *OK* efforts to give a voice to those who challenge many of the things most TED attendees hold dear (e.g. Lomborg’s presentation about optimizing spending on global issues).

    However I still think the defects of all groups that are wealth-centric (as well as poor-centric!) need to be discussed at much greater length. Sure there are a few token poor people at TED, but unless I’m missing the obvious here most of the attendees represent a tiny, yet extremely influential, segment of our society. The middle class Soccer mom / Nascar dad sensibilities that effectively drive the US empire forward are largely missing here.

    But, I’m whining and not offering a solution, as Bil has partly done with a free unconference. Of course barriers to entry for conferences are often travel as much as the cost of the event, and the barrier I’m talking about is more along the lines of the fact that only a small demographic segment of folks go to these types of event.

    How do we give a fair and reasonable voice to everybody with a stake in the game – ie to every human on earth?

  3. Joe:

    I think there’s room for TED, Pop!Tech, Clinton Global Initiative, and World Economic Forum; and lots of room for more BILs.

    The best expression of your aim that I have seen is to “have the most influential discussions about critical global issues take place on the global stage.” I’m in favor generally of greater awareness about big picture issues, particularly within the context of technology acceleration; but it’s unclear what forms your aim might take, the steps involved, and the results envisioned.

    While the idea of giving a “fair and reasonable voice to everybody with a stake” is an attractive ideal on the surface, it’s unclear whether the opportunity cost of that effort would be favorable, and whether there’s a higher probability of the desired results coming from that effort, or from other efforts.

    Also, the tangible objectives need to be clarified.


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  5. it’s unclear whether the opportunity cost of that effort would be favorable, and whether there’s a higher probability of the desired results coming from that effort, or from other efforts

    Tyler this is an excellent point. In fact my current working hypothesis is that the most logical approach to solving complex global problems is for humans to accelerate the development of conscious computing by redirecting more resources in that direction. From where? Wasteful military and climate hype spending, of course.

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