TED Salons

I’ve started a thing I call a “TED Salon”. The basic process is pretty simple.

  1. Invite a small group of people over.
  2. Eat, drink and socialize a bit.
  3. Watch a TED Talk.
  4. Talk until that last person you invited decides they want to leave.

We’ve had a couple of these so far and they seem to have gone well. The conversations have been fascinating. The people I hang with are phenomenally smart and TED Salons so far seem to be a way to share what they’ve learned and what they’re thinking about at the moment. The universe is incredibly complex and each of us sees only our own small wedge of it. Getting together and talking is a way to “triangulate” on different notions so that we can understand them more thoroughly. TED Talks provide a starting point, if not an anchor, for these conversations.

My motivation for TED Salons was triggered by the recent election catastrophe in the U.S. In the end, this may be the best thing that could have happened to us. It’s a kick in the head that should knock us out of the complacency that we slid into. As has been said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”1 Vigilance requires awareness and considered evaluation of the circumstances and the alternatives; skills that seem to be in insufficient supply lately. TED Salons are intended to provide a venue for exercising those skills in a way that that has some advantages over random Facebook posts. Think of it as a dojo for critical thinking2.

The process is still being refined, but I believe that part of what has made it work so far is who participates. For me, the first filter is the obvious one; would they enjoy a gathering like this? It’s not for everyone. If you have strong, rigid beliefs and aren’t inclined to honestly and openingly consider other points-of-view this is probably not the place for you. Notice that it’s not about the beliefs that you have. These are yours and I respect your right to have them. It’s about the beliefs you’re willing to consider and evaluate. From a personal ontology perspective, this isn’t for the timid. Second, I try to encourage participation by a group of people with a range of age and experience. Participants who’ve actively engaged so far range in age from 11 to 70. Everyone has had something to offer and is treated as an equal in the conversation no matter how much life they’ve lived or are about to live. Third, and this was mostly by coincidence, invite people with different backgrounds. This helps keep conversations from lapsing into work topics; at least to a degree.

I’m happy with it so far. It’s addressing my need for these kinds of interactions as well as my need to feel like I’m actually doing something positive for human society. For all I know it may take several generations to have a real impact, but if that’s what’s required then why wait.

If you decide to create a TED Salon, I’d love to hear about it. Tell me what works and what doesn’t. Additionally, since traditions are fun, the first TED Salon was on February 3 so I’m trying to schedule subsequent salons on or near the 3rd of each month. Your traditions are, of course, up to you.

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