Back by popular demand, here’s our skeptical cheerleader, Occam’s Razor (pictured left), with a twist on the TED conference. Take it away, Occam!
I think by now most readers here are familiar with TED (Talking Egos Droning), mostly because of the growing popularity of TED Talks.

TED is hard to describe, and the website is not much help, reading, “We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world,” which is what you say when you don’t really do anything and is as comfortably vague as an ArcherDanielsMidland commercial. But if that doesn’t explain it, the site also notes that their annual conference works well because “all of knowledge is connected.” Clear as mud, right?

I first learned about TED when I was cornered at a conference by a dean of a prominent engineering school who clearly wanted me to know – actually I think he wanted anyone to know and I happened to be a captive audience – that he had recently been invited to be part. See, TED isn’t just for anyone – it’s for the best and the brightest, and membership is exclusive, by invite only. The “T” is actually for “technology” and it attracts a bunch of smarty pants who then talk to a bunch of other smarty pants (speakers have included Bill Gates, the Google guys, and James Watson, who fortunately kept his talk to DNA and did not veer off into some of his more interesting views on race). And lucky us! they have decided to condescend to help the citizen scientists of the world learn from them via their online talks. And it’s just not just pure sciencey stuff. No, you can go to the site and even waste time watching such fascinating presentations as a guy telling a story using emoticons, another guy who does math in his head really fast, and at least a couple old guys who will be dead soon discussing how it’s possible to live forever.

Pretty mundane, I know, which is a shame. TED used to be subversive, dark, and mysterious, with only captains of industry and masters of the universe as members and certainly no mamby-pamby poets or comedians. It used to be bacchanalian brotherhood best described as Bohemian Grove meets the Illuminati meets the Masons meets that trippy orgy scene from Eyes Wide Shut. The first rule about TED was not to talk about TED, and if a few hookers died at their meeting every year, well, that was just collateral damage. In the old days at the meetings a group president was elected – crowned the Grand Theodore – for a one-year term, an honor which gave him 1. control of the company owned by his vanquished electoral foe; 2. the right to send US armed forces into engagement in the country of his choosing for any consecutive two-month period; and 3. the pick of the choicest virgins every time he entered a TED-controlled city. Now? Well now they simply have “TED Prizes,” which give $100,000 to the recipient along with a “wish to change the world.” Yawn. Some notable recent recipients: Bono, who used the money for sunglasses and wished for more self-importance. Dave Eggers, who bought some fresh book ideas and who wished for more pomposity. And Bill Clinton, who had the same designs for both his wish and his $100,000 but was told that that was only appropriate in the “old TED,” and not in the new, Oprahtized one. In the old days the grizzled TEDders were only shocked at extraordinary things, like the time when Dwight Eisenhower, perpetually perplexed at his inability to beat fellow members at Risk, threw the purple, puffy head of Adolf Hitler, snuck secretly from Berlin and housed in Eisenhower’s freezer at TED, angrily into the lap of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in a fit of pique. Now the TED attendees get all atwitter at something as benign as Noam Chomsky’s recent talk titled, “The surprising choice you might make when trapped in a room with Garrison Keillor, Maya Angelou, and a gun with one bullet.”

But regardless of how things have changed, at least you know that all of knowledge is connected. Especially this bit of knowledge, which includes, among other things, in utero masterbation. Enjoy.

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