TED stands for technology, entertainment, and design, and it is an annual conference with a mission to discuss "ideas worth spreading." It brings together a fascinating mix of technologists, politicians, academic researchers, business people, and celebrities.
The presentations, called TEDTalks, cover a range of topics that include science, art, design, culture, politics, and technology. The speakers are world-class leaders in their field. And because presenting at TED is the conference world's equivalent of performing at the Super Bowl, they bring their A game and do a great job.
So much happens at TED that it is hard to summarize. But this year, four broad trends seemed to ripple through the show:
- The green movement shifts from why to how: TED has long been a place to discuss the environment. In past years, the focus was on why sustainability was important. This year, the why seemed to be accepted and the focus was on how businesses, governments, and consumers are making the world a greener place.
- Genetic and human engineering amazes and scares: Labs are creating human organs, companies are making a wide range of "human enhancement" drugs, and bioengineers are figuring out how to make better babies. The field offers great promise to improve human health and cure disease. But the ethical issues are very unclear, and the science appears to be moving faster than our ability to figure the ethical questions out.
- Robots are more common than we realize: There was a lot of discussion and examples of the use of robotics across many applications and industries.
- Sensors are watching and reacting: The theme of using network-connected electronic sensors to monitor and react to the environment ran through many of the talks.
Many of the TEDTalks are available free online (attending the show costs thousands of dollars). They are fascinating and well worth watching.
Steve King is a partner at Emergent Research , where he leads an ongoing research project to identify, analyze , and forecast the global trends and shifts that affect small business es . He blogs at smallbizlabs.com.