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Here we are again. As we did last year, MIT Sloan Management Review is in Long Beach, Calif., to cover the TED conference. If you’re not familiar with TED, a high-end event that aims to bring together the world’s leaders in technology, entertainment, and design and share ideas worth spreading, see our introductory post from last year. We’ll be sending daily posts through the end of the event on Saturday.
Last year, we aimed to cover TED from a management point of view. In retrospect, that seems too narrow. Sure, there are talks here that are not explicitly about management that have direct management implications. But many of the provocative talks here have nothing to do with management or business, yet are fascinating. For example, during this morning’s TED-U session (that’s “TED University,” a series of low-key peer talks rather than full presentations from the mainstage luminaries), filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy spoke eloquently and ominously of the suicide bomber recruiting techniques she learned about in Pakistan. No one is going to become a better manager based on her talk. But managers have lives outside their careers; they’re interested in plenty of things in addition to being better managers. So, in the spirit of trying to capture the breadth of the event (and because this is the last TED your correspondent will be covering for MIT Sloan Management Review), we’ll try to cover all we experience at our seventh TED, from the most management-relevant to how dozens in the crowd started checking their email on iPhones and BlackBerrys while Sheryl Crow sang a painfully earnest ballad about compassion. We won’t mention every talk or try to capture every second of this packed event — there are many bloggers and twitterers doing that . Rather, we aim to give, at reasonable length for busy readers, a feel of what it’s like here.
Before we move on to the main event, let’s quickly note some of the other highlights from the too-early-in-the-day TED-U session. Robert Cook, vice president of advanced technology at Pixar, took aim at one of the technorati’s favorite constructs, the singularity, provoking a few mild boo’s from around me, Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan showed