TED 2008: Good, evil meet to discuss future of latter

February 27, 2008

Next: Innovation Tools & Trends Tapping Into TED – BusinessWeek

That afternoon, president of the Children’s Health Fund, Irwin Redlener, investigative journalist Steven Emerson, Philip Zimbardo, he of the controversial Stanford Prison Experiments of the 1960s, which cast average Joes as prison guards or prisoners, with terrible consequences, and human rights expert, Samantha Power, consider Will Evil Prevail?

OK, my title’s unfair. I don’t really know much about Power beyond the titles of her books and the fact that she advised Obama, and I know nothing of the Children’s Health Fund; so I can’t necessarily label them as “the good.” And I don’t think Emerson and Zimbardo are really evil, but they are strikingly similar characters: researchers who claim to be investigating evil who’ve long since undermined anything they could say through delusional self-importance, methodological and intellectual sloppiness, and borderline (or worse) fraud.

Seriously, though, what sort of productive conversation on the stated question could these four really have in the course of an hour or so? Many of the TED talks available online are incredible, but most of the panels for this year seem pathetically designed. And one would think a private conference on TED’s (price) scale would be able to put together a schedule at least as informative as that of your average academic conference. Although I suppose there would have to be actual substance for the program to summarize that substance. Whoever assembled the program did manage to describe Emerson as “a terrorist investigator.” So maybe I’m not the only one thinking along the lines of my title.

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