It's been a big week of news for TED (Technology, Education, Design) conferences -- and their self-organized TEDx offshoots. This week, TED sparked controversy over a talk on income inequality that organizers decided was too partisan to post online and made news (well, at least in these quarters) for the convening of TEDxMogadishu -- the conference's most extreme location yet.
Over the years, TED talks have been a showcase for dozens of enlightening and entertaining presentations. (These include some great talks by FP contributors like Paul Collier, Tyler Cowen, and Evgeny Morozov.) Since TED began sharing its 12ish-minute knowledge nuggets for free online, it has spawned a host of imitators and may have even changed the way people give and watch presentations.
On the other hand, critics also charge that "nerd Coachella" as often as not serves as an elitist self-aggrandizement opportunity for gimmick-peddling narcissists. In recent years, TED has also often seemed less like a salon for innovative thinking and more like a late-night infomercial or a self-help seminar. (Bringing in Tony Robbins to high-five Al Gore didn't help.)
With all the fuss over TED's self-censorship, we searched through hours of footage to find 10 talks the organizers really should have excised. From tearful hula-hooping in Marrakesh to Bill Gates unleashing bloodsucking insects on his audience, here's the best of the worst:
Joe Smith: How to Use a Paper Towel
Joe Smith is a former district attorney and chair of Oregon's Democratic Party. He's also, according to his TED profile, "a powerful advocate for proper paper towel use." In case you don't feel like watching, the trick to drying your hands with only one square of paper towel is to shake your hands vigorously first and then fold the towel three times to allow for "interstitial suspension." Or you can just keep wiping them on your pants.