Saturday, August 2, 2008

The TED Prize

First there was TED, the airline.  Now there is TED, the prize.

I guess they are taking nominations for the 2009 TED prize already. You can go HERE to read about it and nominate someone if you want.

Last year or so, someone nominated the guy who invented the technology for the iPhone. This year someone may propose the beautiful and talented Angelina Jolie, who has devoted her life to appearing on the cover of People Magazine every time she adopts a child from a third world orphanage. And let's not forget how much money she will raise for worthy causes just by giving birth to twins.

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. Terrorists, Evildoers and Despots need not apply. The judges award a $100,000 prize to individuals who have met the criteria for being inventive, innovative and inspirational. Famous doesn't hurt.

It also seems as though most past nominees are quite wealthy from their efforts. Even though the winners tend to be people who spend their days doing things that make the world a better place - tech-wise, entertainment-wise, or design-wise -- let's not kid ourselves. I doubt that many of them started out with that in mind. This is America. Making money was numero uno. But it's amazing how altruistic you can get when the dough starts rolling in.

Unfortunately, right now the TED prize has no way for anyone to nominate people who drive a bus for a living or run a neighborhood Mom and Pop store -- the people who keep things going in this country while the brainiacs talk among themselves.

Meanwhile, once chosen, the winners of a TED prize get to go to the TED conference to accept their awards and present an eighteen minute speech on a WISH they have. It should be a wish that makes the world a kinder, gentler place. Not something that enriches their bank accounts.

By presenting these pipe dreams to an audience of other Xtreme visionaries, there's a chance that some of them may actually come to fruition. To see what I mean, you can watch about 200 of these speeches online to get the idea.

Once again, let me point out that the people who are nominated for a TED prize are either famous already, like Bono, or, at the very least, famous among their peers.

Personally I think there ought to be a grass roots category to acknowledge somebody who can't afford a publicist. Why shouldn't a person who isn't well known as a great designer, entertainer or techno-geek get a chance to win for just having an imaginative, useful thought that deserves worldwide attention? Even if they don't work at a think tank or live on government grants.

I'm talking about Mr. or Ms. Average Mope. These are people who may not be doing anything more exciting with their lives other than raising law-abiding children who vote, have careers and don't live at home.

In fact, why shouldn't someone who is incarcerated be able to enter their 100 word WISH for the WORLD into the TED prize competition? Granted, I may have mentioned that Evildoers are no doubt excluded from being nominated. However, on the other hand, what better way to redeem yourself than providing a useful solution to a worldwide issue?

I am reminded of Illinois' former governor, George Ryan, who is  currently in the slammer himself for six years. He is a prime example of how a moral compass can still be operative, even in the midst of a federal investigation. Before sentencing, actually before there was enough evidence to take his case to the grand jury, the guv commuted the sentences of all the prisoners on death row. He did the right thing when it became clear that a lot of these convicts had been wrongly accused. I think the governor's gesture could have made him worthy of consideration for a TED prize. But he went for the Nobel instead. No, really.

Whatever. If someone is chosen as a grass roots winner, they could then present their very own eighteen minute I HAVE A WISH speech, along with the likes of Steve Jobs and Bill Clinton, so that people who matter would listen. Think of it, a high school principal, a daycare provider, or your town's fire chief with a revolutionary idea. Just like the fancy folks.

I mentioned that the winners each get $100,000. This amount might just cover the monthly light bill for most of the past nominees. On the other hand, for the folks in the grass roots category, that $100,000 could have some real purchase power.

Not that I think the TED prize suffers from an annoying celebration of elitism or anything.

So, do any of you average Joes and Janes have an idea that could make the world a better place? Feel free to leave it in a comment here. Maybe someone will nominate YOU for a TED prize.

1 comment:

emikk said...

If it weren't for unknown people doing great stuff, we wouldn't have the technology to put Angela Jolie on the cover of anything.