TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE

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[ Wed. Jun. 30. 2010 ]

Or, how the annual networking session of America's nerd elite became the world's most important and influential talking shop. MICHAEL WOLFF reports on the technology, entertainment and design conference that's the global power summit for the new super-wealthy, tech-savvy, hyper-connected intelligentsia

...But TED, which launched first in 1984, and then became an annual event from 1990. was always a little different. It was a pageant of nerdiness, in a sense combining the key forms of nerd social life: summer camp, talent show and adult education class. Physicists competed with juggling acts. Magicians with New Yorker writers. Quincy Jones followed Richard Dawkins (who gave one of his first talks about atheism at TED). Cellist Yo-Yo Ma shared a stage with superstring theorist Brian Greene.

Most elementally, it attracted the world's biggest nerds. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, the Yahoo! boys, the Google boys and everybody else who ever made a billion dollars. They, in turn, attracted Hollywood royalty, who in turn attracted the media moguls. TED is where I first went drinking with Rupert Murdoch and first flirted with American television personality Martha Stewart.

If there was a theme at TED, then it was "insider-ism". Everybody present was somebody And everybody knew everybody. (For several dotcom years, TED was the main driver of my social life.) The tech business was the Mafia and TED was the biggest Mafia wedding of the year.

A key feature and sought-after invitation at TED, hosted on the second night by the literary agent John Brockman, is the Billionaires' Dinner — row upon row of the world's most successful (and richest) human beings (Murdoch, in my first conversation with him at TED, was grouchy about some of the people who were implying they were billionaires who, according to him, were most definitely not!). ...

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