In his classic Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain wrote one of his most famous lines: “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
TED is anchored by the belief that brilliance is a public good — that inspiration, intellectualism, passion and the wonder of discovery are gifts that everyone should share and participate in. Just as important, however, is its affirmation that smart is not the domain of one or two or even three disciplines, but comes in all shapes and sizes and often from unexpected places. The enlightened mind does not, to paraphrase Twain, vegetate in one little field or industry of the earth all its lifetime.
We live in a moment when the awesome power of technology and the pressure of global competitiveness have focused our attention on the importance of hard disciplines. Our politicians push for emphasis on math and science in classrooms. If these improvements are essential, however, the conversation around them risks drowning out the all-important message that the world is beautiful because of the diversity of passion in it — that alongside engineers we need oboe players, and that for all of our artificial intelligence, we need choreographers who remind us how majestic human creation is all by itself.