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Ideas worth spreading

September 4, 2010

The recent TED sponsored talks in New Delhi inspire this post on the organization and its work. As most of you will know by now, TED is a small nonprofit with essentially evangelical zeal, devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader.

One way it has become broader is that they have come to India. In 2009, they hosted a conference in Mysore, TED India where they had a number of speakers of interest to Indians, and many from India as well. These included the social worker Anupam Mishra who spoke on  The ancient ingenuity of water harvesting, Harvard economist Sendhil Mullainathan whose talk on Solving social problems with a nudge is truly inspired, and MIT’s Pranav Mistry’s  The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology is awesome. Just that.

Last month in Delhi TEDx organized a day of talks at the India Habitat Centre. Among the noteworthy speakers there- and a friend of SwB was an invitee- were Naman Ahuja, Associate Professor in the School of Arts and Aesthetics at JNU and Shabnam Virmani, documentary film maker extraordinaire whose Kabir Project is cutting edge in every sense of the words.

But the talk that drew me to the site in the first place was by an unusual icon, Bill Gates, who has emerged as one of the most significant philanthropists- and a self declared (and perhaps accidental) optimist. He spoke last year on Mosquitos, malaria and education with both passion and charm. And persuasion. Among the many things he said- in a disarmingly simple manner, one struck a very responsive chord in my own thinking.

Education is the most important thing to get right.

This is our only hope.

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