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  • JIM LECINSKI: Well, good Friday afternoon, everyone,

  • and welcome to another exciting edition of Authors at Google.

  • We're originating today from our wonderful Google Chicago

  • office.

  • [APPLAUSE]

  • Round of applause.

  • I will be your presumptive moderator for the day using

  • the zeitgeist word of the day.

  • I'm Jim Lecisnki, and our guest today

  • is with us, Chris Anderson.

  • Chris is the curator of the TED conference

  • and has been since 2002, following

  • a long and successful career in the publishing industry.

  • We'll talk a little bit about that today.

  • Chris has developed TED into a global platform

  • for identifying and disseminating

  • ideas worth spreading.

  • Welcome, Chris.

  • [APPLAUSE]

  • So great to have you with us.

  • I wonder if maybe we could get started,

  • if you'd tell us a little bit about your background.

  • I mentioned the publishing.

  • How does a philosophy major and publisher

  • come to lead and transform one of the world's

  • great digital brands?

  • CHRIS ANDERSON: Definitely a long, twisting journey.

  • I was a journalist originally, actually,

  • when I first came out of university,

  • and I made the mistake of buying one of the early computers.

  • It was like a Tandy TRSAT clone.

  • And I was awed by this thing.

  • I kind of completely fell in love with it,

  • and to cut a long story short, a few years later,

  • I found myself working at one of the early home computer

  • magazines, and I loved that.

  • And then I decided, this isn't so hard.

  • Let's publish one.

  • So I started a company, published a magazine.

  • Bizarrely, it worked, and then this thing took off.

  • And so the publishing part was just

  • building lots and lots of these nichey hobbyist magazines that

  • were deeply boring to everyone, except the people they

  • were targeted at, who kind of loved them.

  • And so we had this philosophy.

  • Our complete logo was actually, "Media with passion."

  • And that's always been my mantra as an entrepreneur

  • is look for the passion.

  • If you can find something that people are really

  • passionate about, that's your clue

  • that there's something there, that this is kind

  • of the proxy for potential.

  • And so when I first came to TED in 1998, TED was back then,

  • it was actually started in '84.

  • Nothing on the internet, of course.

  • It was an annual conference.

  • That was it.

  • And I went there in '98.

  • It was bringing together Technology, Entertainment,

  • Design, TED, and I fell in love with it.

  • I thought, I've come home.

  • And what I saw was this passion.

  • People were so passionate about it.

  • It was like, this is my best week of the year.

  • And I thought, why is this your best week of the year?

  • But that was the clue.

  • And so when there was a chance to buy TED from its founder--

  • he was 65-- and I leapt at it.

  • And so that happened in 2001, and the journey since then

  • has been a wild journey of its own.

  • But that's how I got there.

  • JIM LECINSKI: Great.

  • And we'll talk about that journey since then.

  • In some sense, it's been said that it

  • was the power of what was then new media back in 2006,

  • online video in particular, that really gave TED its boost.

  • Would you say that's the case?

  • CHRIS ANDERSON: That's absolutely the case.

  • When I bought it, I bought it with a nonprofit,

  • a foundation I had.

  • And so the intention was always, it

  • felt like there was all this inspiration.

  • It was supposed to be for the public good somehow,

  • but how could you let out the knowledge

  • that was at this private conference to the world?

  • And our first attempt to do that was on TV,

  • and TV wasn't interested.

  • These are lectures.

  • They're lectures.

  • They're kind of boring.

  • Lectures are boring.

  • Now I didn't actually listen to them,

  • because they weren't boring.

  • But they weren't interested.

  • And so yeah.

  • So when this weird technology called online video

  • with its shaky little kittens and all these other things

  • happening came along, we thought, wait a sec.

  • Maybe we could, as an experiment,

  • put some TED Talks up.

  • Probably won't work.

  • They're too long for the internet,

  • and you're not going to be there live.

  • It's on video.

  • To our amazement, these things went viral,

  • and so that was the moment, 2006,

  • when we decided we had to flip TED on its head.

  • We're no longer just a conference.

  • We're a media organization devoted to sharing ideas.

  • JIM LECINSKI: And so let's build on that a little bit.

  • You described what TED stands for, T-E-D, but how would you

  • talk about its meaning, its purpose?

  • What does the brand stand for?

  • CHRIS ANDERSON: It stands for the bringing together

  • of knowledge in ways that people can understand.

  • The world's really complicated, and most of the time,

  • we go deep.

  • You have to know something well to have a chance of succeeding.

  • You dig deep.

  • You learn your speciality well.

  • And that's how most things operate.

  • That's how most conferences operate,

  • most university courses, whatever.

  • That's what you have to do.

  • But there's a place for context to actually understand

  • the world we're in.

  • You need to go broader than that.

  • And actually, lots of other things

  • happen when you bring together knowledge from different areas.

  • You get the catalyzing of new ideas.

  • You get the possibility of collaboration,

  • and so I think that's what hit me suddenly

  • was why Ted had a role to play.

  • There's just not much of that happens.

  • And so if you can persuade people to come together

  • from these different fields and explain something

  • they're passionate about in ways that other people

  • can actually understand, that, I think, that definitely

  • over a few days, for example, that had the effect of selling

  • these spots in your brain.

  • And you just thought of stuff that you

  • hadn't thought of before.

  • And so that's what it stands for.

  • JIM LECINSKI: We'll come back and chat

  • a little bit in a second about the power

  • of how those talks are built on understandable ideas.

  • But I want to pursue-- you mentioned the word

  • collaboration.

  • Most of our audiences has not had the pleasure

  • of actually attending the conference when they were

  • in Long Beach or now back in Vancouver,

  • so could you maybe paint a little picture about not just

  • the speakers on the stage that we

  • can see by watching the video, but it's

  • a full four-day collaboration event with the dinners.

  • And can you maybe paint picture of what

  • happens during that week?

  • CHRIS ANDERSON: Sure.

  • So yeah, it's four and 1/2-ish days.

  • There are basically 12 main sessions of TED.

  • Each session is an hour and 45 minutes,

  • and it's five to six speakers, plus other little performances

  • and things thrown in there.

  • So it's quite fast-moving.

  • What's unusual about TED is that everyone sees every speaker.

  • It's one track.

  • And that doesn't usually happen, but it is the whole point of it

  • is you are supposed to be exposed to stuff you had

  • no idea you were interested in.

  • And it's become a truism at TED that the session that you

  • think is going to be most boring is the one that blows you away.

  • And so amazingly, people do commit

  • to coming to each session, and that

  • means that you can have a shared conversation in the corridors

  • after.

  • And the collaboration is not really something we stage.

  • It just happens that the combination of that exposure

  • to these different speakers and ideas,

  • it sort of sparks things in people,

  • and weird projects emerge out of it.

  • JIM LECINSKI: Yeah.

  • Now is it the case-- I had heard that you discourage or don't

  • allow digital devices or live tweeting or cameras

  • or these kind of things in the room?

  • Is that the case?

  • CHRIS ANDERSON: That is the case.

  • Apart from the back two rows, where

  • people can tweet if they want to, or in the simulcast spaces.

  • But in the main theater, we say no, because all of life right

  • now is this attention war, and talks are weird things.

  • They often take a while to build.

  • To share a really big idea or something that really matters,

  • you sometimes have to build context.

  • You have to go through, gosh, 90 seconds, where

  • it's a little bit challenging or boring for a minute.

  • If people-- because I've just got to check my email,

  • just for this moment.

  • They miss a couple of key context things, they're gone.

  • And then the talk never lands.

  • And once more, the five people behind them

  • are sort of annoyed, and it's sending a signal that this

  • isn't that interesting.

  • So everyone else decides it's not that interesting.

  • You are, right now, you are a super organism.

  • You're all actually, although you're not

  • fully conscious of it, you're feeding off each other.

  • You take cues from each other.

  • And that's what happens in a lot of things.

  • So we try to have a different contract

  • from the normal contract.

  • Audience, you're actually going to give your full attention

  • to this speaker for 18 minutes.

  • Speaker, you're going to work bloody hard for several months

  • to produce the talk of your life and make it worth their while.

  • And that's the deal.

  • JIM LECINSKI: You know I actually

  • asked that question as just a not-so-subtle hint

  • to our audience today.

  • CHRIS ANDERSON: I'm actually stunned,

  • because I thought coming to Google, of all places,

  • you guys would all be coding and whatever.

  • You're all so brilliant, you can multitask your way

  • through this.

  • No problem.

  • JIM LECINSKI: There you go.

  • So maybe tell us a little bit about the simple question

  • of who gets to do a TED talk.

  • How do you decide?

  • CHRIS ANDERSON: In principle, it's simple.

  • It's someone who's doing amazing work that other people need

  • to know about, and the rest is detail.

  • And so it's hard to decide who those people are.

  • We get 10,000 suggestions a year from people around the world.

  • We have a curation team.

  • For a conference, we're trying to weave

  • a sort of mix of people together around a theme.

  • This year's theme was dream as in big, bold dreams.

  • But there's no algorithm to it yet.

  • Please don't invent one just yet,

  • or we'll be out of business.

  • It's a sort of-- because we want, with the program,

  • to-- and I think a lot of events fail to do this.

  • We want to poke at every different part

  • of people's minds.

  • It can't just be about something analytical or storytelling,

  • what have you.

  • There are different parts of minds

  • engaged when you start to go to the aesthetic

  • or to someone's inspiring story, or to here's

  • a really complex scientific issue that we're tackling in.

  • There's energy that comes from that,

  • and so it's not just who you bring.

  • It's then trying to sequence them in a way that will work.

  • JIM LECINSKI: I heard you once say

  • that-- I don't know if it's a filter or a screen how you put

  • it-- but one consideration that you