So... this month marks TED's 30th anniversary. Couldn't think of a better way to mark the occasion than come hang out on Reddit for a bit. Any questions, anyone?

My Proof:

Comments: 278 • Responses: 39  • Date: 

su199367 karma

What do you make of the comments made by Eddie Huang in his Joe Rogan podcast about being kicked out of the TED fellowship? I've aways really enjoyed the talks, but some of what he says, and other articles I've read about the actual organisation of the events seems a little troubling.


TEDChris19 karma

Ah, Eddie. I’m going to quote my friend David S. Rose from Quora: “He certainly was not forced to join (it is an incredibly competitive application process), and expectations are made very clear up front. It's rather like applying to be a White House Fellow, being accepted, and then being surprised when they get upset if you decide to cut out of Washington for a month to go surfing.”

timbenz48 karma

This is more a request than a question: Please shake up the format. While I can live with 18-minute length, stylistically the talks are blurring into one another. Intonation, structure, etc have all become wearyingly homogenous since TED talks went on web and people could see what others have done. I bet I can spot most TED talks just from a ten-second audio clip.

TEDChris44 karma

Really interesting point. One thing we've noticed is that when the talks exploded online, some speakers started trying to game the format, so to speak. We've become pretty sensitive to that. In talks recorded in the last year at our main conferences, it's much less evident. We're looking for substance over style, and really encourage speakers to give the talk their own authentic way.

KorranHalcyon37 karma

what is the deal with TED banning certain talks? why have the guests only to bury them?

TEDChris22 karma

There's a lot of misinformation out there on this one. eg. There were two talks by Graham Hancock and Rupert Sheldrake that we were accused of censoring. Simply not true. Long story... some of which I wrote about here in this note to Deepak Chopra.

Nick Hanauer was another storm in a teacup. My version here:

...and actually there was a huge Reddit discussion raised by that here:

In general, it's fair to say the Internet is allergic to censorship. If some one claims censorship online, it's like shouting fire in a movie theater. People get hurt, whether or not it's true.


They don't know what they are going to talk about and don't want a controversial or offensive talk to be associated with them. If those people want to get their opinion online it takes five minutes to make a youtube video, TED just does not want it associated with them.

TEDChris8 karma

Actually, we're fine with controversy, per se. Most ideas that truly matter are a little controversial. There have been plenty on TED.

bradlees32 karma

Do you think that TED has sort of "sold out" as far as the types of talks given? Some seem to be more sales-pitchy than inspiring.

TEDChris9 karma

We hate pitchy talks more than anyone. I promise.

yellomango30 karma

Have you thought about hosting debates with TED? Maybe not the religious debates that nye just had, but debates on other subjects?

TEDChris30 karma

We've held a few... some described here:

...but could do with more. Ideas needed to be challenged, right? That's a growing emphasis in our new website launching soon.

airplanesscareme19 karma

Hey Chris, Thanks for doing this AMA! I have a question for you:

The most viewed TED talk of all time is Ken Robinson's: how school kills creativity which has been viewed close to 25 million times. He shares a lot of great ideas that I believe could help and improve the school system but still 8 years after the talk I have yet to see any kind of implementation of his ideas in the way we teach in schools. What can we do as citizens to help take the ideas that we learn through TED and turn them into actual change?

TEDChris19 karma

He's certainly inspired a lot of people to chuck in their careers and devote their lives to education reform. And his call for greater attention to creativity in schools is more relevant now than ever. We're entering a world where AIs will take away a lot of traditional jobs. Creativity is what humans still own. It should be at the core of education. I actually see a lot of great things happening... from MOOCs to Khan Academy to our own TED-Ed initiative. What can citizens do? I think there's a different answer to that question for every single citizen. You know your own skillset better than anyone. You tell me. What can YOU do?

timbenz17 karma

Top three realistic "gets" you wish would agree to do TED talks, but haven't yet.

TEDChris47 karma

Edward Snowden. The Pope. A 12-year-old girl from a slum in Mumbai who can really... REALLY... explain to us why we need to let her help shape the future.

harkonnenjr17 karma

Chris - TED is seen as an exclusive club - what can we do to make the rich more aware income inequality is ultimately going to be in their disadvantage?

TEDChris20 karma

That's actually the question I'm personally thinking about more than any other right now. A 2-min answer here won't work... but this will be a big theme at our upcoming conference. I'll try to post links later to a couple of relevant talks we already ran.

F4E714 karma

Hey Chris, what's your favourite TED talk?

TEDChris18 karma

Ooooh. So many. Here's a less known talk from a remarkable outside-the-box physicist David Deutsch.

kirbysdownb6 karma

I'm always overly-eager to share my favorite talk, so while you're waiting for Chris to give his answer, check out this talk from Susan Cain (ICYMI) about the power of being an introvert

As someone who is a life-long Type B personality, it just felt nice to hear that you don't always have to be a Type A to succeed in life.

TEDChris7 karma

Yup... That was special!

crossjamin13 karma

Obvious question, but what are your thoughts on Benjamin Bratton's "We need to talk about TED" talk, and all of the media coverage it's gotten? It certainly shows how large TED's cultural influence has become, but has it become too big and popular for its own good?

TEDChris14 karma

It's ironic that Bratton talk criticizing TED's lack of nuance was itself given at a TEDx event. It raised some decent questions though. This was my response to it. To my mind, it was based on a misconception of what TED is trying to do.

TEDChris11 karma

Thanks all for some great questions. Can't sign off without introducing you to some of the wonderful people I get to work with. While I've been tapping away here, my colleague Angela Cheng has been zipping around the NY office with a camera. Here's the video she ended up with. It stars Eric Mueller (our video delivery lead, and Redditor).

If you have other burning questions, feel free to email me [email protected]. Thanks for chatting!

SyntheticDiz10 karma

I am also Chris Anderson, and as one Chris Anderson to the other I wish you the best of luck!

TEDChris13 karma

I thank you, good Sir. Or, as the case may be, Ma'am.

karmanaut9 karma

Is there any editorial process that you do before someone's TED talk? Do you review it to make sure everything is appropriate? If not, do you disallow controversial figures from doing a TED talk?

Edit: Because it would be cool, here's a subreddit for Redditors to host their own TED talks.

TEDChris6 karma

Oh yes indeed. There's a team here of 3 or 4 focused on each conference. We look through literally thousands of suggestions from the public (there's a page on the site where you can submit a speaker) and pull in those we think will best fit the conference theme. We're looking for a) credible people who are doing remarkable work and b) who can make it accessible to others. We try to avoid nut jobs! Occasionally they sneak in!

karmanaut4 karma

What about someone who is notable and 'credible' (in their field) but still has some very ahem odd ideas about things. For example, would Ken Ham qualify to give a talk about Creationism?

Or what about someone like Ron Paul, who has some ideas that a lot of people respect, but then some ideas that are a bit more ridiculous?

TEDChris7 karma

We definitely could use some more great thinking from the political right. Would love your suggestions, actually...

[deleted]8 karma


TEDChris16 karma

DON'T (always) follow your passion. I really think that was terrible advice offered by a generation of hippy parents. I expanded on this at the end of this commencement talk I gave to some architects.

Ecorn7 karma

If you could make a TED talk about TED, what would be the piece of information you most wanted audiences to take away?

TEDChris13 karma

That the end of the talk should not be the end of the idea... but the beginning.

leontes7 karma

Do you think that tedx has diluted the brand at all? What's the layers of quality control you employ to maintain the level of insight that people have come to expect from TED talks?

TEDChris7 karma

No. It has massively, massively amplified the brand. TEDx is where we give people a free license to organize their own TED-like event locally. Are there some truly terrible TEDx talks out there? Yes there are. But the vast majority have amazed us by how much energy, passion and brilliance goes into them. There are now around 7 TEDx events held every day. That's pretty incredible. TEDx organizers have packed out the Sydney Opera House and the European parliament. And we've seen TEDx events in the slums around Nairobi. Also TEDxBaghdad, TEDxMogadishu, etc, etc. It's a simple rule of the connected age. If you're ready to give away what's most precious to you, you may be amazed at what the world gives back.

thebiglibrarian7 karma

What's your favorite book? And why?

TEDChris11 karma

I can't get David Deutsch's book The Beginning of Infinity out of my head. He makes an impassioned argument that knowledge is not just an evolutionary trick of the homo sapiens, but something real and deep and capable of reach across the universe.

polismouse6 karma

Wow! Thank you for doing this!

In what ways has the development/rapid growth of TED surprised you the most? Is the content roughly what you imagined it would be?

TEDChris8 karma

I guess the biggest surprise was that LECTURES posted on the internet lasting as long as 18 mins actually started to go viral. We really didn't see that coming. Our first experiment putting talks out there for free happened in 2006, and the response to them kind of forced us to flip the organization on its head. No longer just a conference org. The website, and its ability to share talks far and wide, became TED's heart and soul.

SparkyBrown6 karma

Hello Chris, I get extremely nervous before speaking in front of a crowd & it causes me to rush & forget key points. Any advice to counter this?

TEDChris6 karma

I wrote this piece giving some advice on public speaking. I hope it helps. By the way, nervousness can be your friend. Audiences respond to vulnerability. ;-)

ryallen236 karma

What was it like winning a championship with Lebron James and the Heat? I like your new beard.

TEDChris7 karma

I wish. Except that version of me is spelt Andersen...!

RagingMandingo5 karma

Doing an AMA at the same time as Matt Damon and Kevin Smith. You got some balls on you.

TEDChris7 karma

Also... stupidity.

biolumenescent4 karma

How do you plan to make TED Talks more globally accessible? Will you make available in other languages (besides English)?

TEDChris6 karma

We have a massive program called Open Translation Project which has converted talks into 100 or so languages. All done by thousands of volunteers. On pretty much any talk, you add subtitles in many of those languages.

timbenz4 karma

What category is hardest to get decent speakers? Sports? Politics? Finance? Other?

TEDChris13 karma

Women. We try at least twice as hard to recruit women, and still have fewer than we would wish... Only about a third. But it's getting better. My colleague June Cohen spoke about the issue here:

Other categories... Let's see. Politics is tricky. Not interested in the kind of political debate we see most days in mainstream media. We do try to find politicians who can present an outside-the-box framing of an issue ... and could certainly have more of those at TED.

fivetotwelve3 karma

Hey Chris, thanks a lot for doing the AMA

Are there any plans for expanding TED/TEDx talks to Universities? Cooperating closely with education systems in general could create a better link between economy, science and education?!

Asking because our University offers a similar format each months for entrepreneurial students etc.

TEDChris2 karma

Yes! One of our original intentions when we started TEDx was to engage with university communities. So far, we've featured lots of talks from places like TEDxCalTech, TEDxUSC and TEDxWitsUniversity among others. And you can find upcoming university events here:

We're always looking to strengthen our commitment to universities, so let us know if you have suggestions.

AbhiAgarwal3 karma

Would you consider yourself an academic or an entrepreneur?

TEDChris5 karma

I used to be a media entrepreneur. Kind of. And I love academics.

EvangelinaC3 karma

Have you considered organizing TED talks held at public schools, starting with the US, particularly in poor neighborhoods? Seeing, the closer the better, is believing more, and I think it might be a positive inspiration for many students.

TEDChris4 karma

Good suggestion. We just launched something called TED-Ed Clubs which is designed for public schools. The idea is to encourage kids to get to the point where they can give their own TED Talk. You could argue Presentation Literacy will be key skill for 21st century. More on TED-Ed Clubs here:

Ningen43 karma

I just want to say thanks for the awesome and informative videos you guys put together!

TEDChris4 karma

You're welcome. It's a giant team effort. Thanks for watching.

Rikicohn3 karma

In TED there are so many talks with vision and ideals. You let everyone talk, but you must have your own opinions and visions. What would you like to change in the world?

TEDChris0 karma

But our job is to hold those views in check and simply try to nurture a better overall conversation. It makes me to sick to my stomach that so much of our public space is spent with people shouting at each other. How did we end up there?! The world is teeming with wise people and brilliant ideas. TED's job is to do what it can to give them a platform. None of our talks is the full answer to anything. The point is to let ideas out of their silos and get people excited enough to want to dig deeper. So I guess that's what I'd like to change. A more thoughtful public discourse. It really matters.

prepend3 karma

What advice would you have for a serious introvert attending TED for their first time?

TEDChris5 karma

You're not alone! The meaningful connections you make at TED are totally worth some initial discomfort. Just know that everyone there is still a human being :)

prepend3 karma

Hello there, big fan and I love the diversity of videos and all the conversations that they spark.

I don't understand how talks are posted as it seems they aren't all available yet. I've been trying to find the 2008 Taleb TED talk referenced here but it's not up.

Will every TED talk eventually be online?

TEDChris2 karma

That's our goal. We're working on a project called TED Open Archive. There are tens of thousands of TED and TEDx talks out there. We only release one a day on our home page. This project will add back the rest. (But it's a giant labor of love... ...and will be a while yet.)

xvvhiteboy3 karma

Whats the craziest thing thats happened during a TED talk?

TEDChris5 karma

The exchange between Tony Robbins and Al Gore (watching from the 3rd row) was pretty funny. Google it. Let's see... the 30 minute blackout in Edinburgh got a few pulses racing. Ending up bonding the audience quite sweetly. (And Jane McGonigal had to redo the second half of her talk.) Then there was the time I thought I was going to be punched by a speaker for cutting him/her off early. Alas, can't name names on that one. We've since made up.

clawfrank3 karma

Have there been any TED talks that have resulted in actual change?

TEDChris5 karma

Most TED speakers would say the release of their talk online has dramatically increased their impact in the world. But I actually think TED's most significant impact happens at individual viewer level. People watch TED Talks for a while and end up shifting their view of the future. Instead of thinking of it as an unstoppable force they are potential victims of, they think of themselves as perhaps able to play a part in shaping it. So I guess I would say the impact is measured in literally millions of individual stories. We blogged some specific examples here. There are countless more.

JustGoingWithIt3 karma

What inspired you to start TED?

TEDChris8 karma

I didn't start it! First conference was 1984, founded by 3 including the inimitable Richard Saul Wurman. I came in 1998, fell in love with it, and 3 years later was lucky enough to be able to buy it from Richard and put it into a nonprofit. Since then we've been trying to let the good stuff out into the world.

pierovera2 karma

Hey Chris, in your opinion, what has been TED's greatest achievement? How do you think that it has influenced others?

TEDChris3 karma

We don't think that way yet. It's still early days. But it is amazing -- and thrilling -- to discover how many curious people there are in the world. The meme about culture being dumbed down by the Internet is overplayed. Well... on Reddit, you knew that already.

killahgrag2 karma

You can pick anyone, alive or dead, to give a TED talk. Who's your pick and why?

TEDChris4 karma

Let's go with "Dead". Um.... how about: Copernicus, Rosalind Franklin, Elvis (but is he really dead?)

JayDubya692 karma

Hey there Chris, What music do you play to put all your lady friends in the mood? Some Hall and Oates? Marvin Gaye? Barry White? Tell us your secrets.

TEDChris5 karma

I say. I'm British. Don't embarrass me.