But it's hard to just let this event go by without chronicling it somehow. So I'll say this:
TED is by invitation only, and only 1,000 people get to go each year. I was invited because Mike met one of the organizers at MacWorld and impressed him greatly. I went along as kind of the ugly sister you can't leave home.
The sessions are by scientists and poets and musicians and performers who are all at the top of their game. Let me just give this as an example: David Blaine was there, but he wasn't actually a speaker. He just went so he could perform magic in the halls, for free, for the other attendees.
The attendees are pretty much a cross-section of the smartest, richest, most influential people in America. There, I said it. There's no way now not to hate me for being there, because when you gather that many people together who are that privileged (no matter how well-earned that privilege is), there's something in us that really WANTS to hate them. Grrrr. Stupid rich people! I have to fly coach! With crying babies!
I met four billionaires this week (bringing my life list to 5, squeee!), and let me say this: man, they are really nice guys. Seriously! I'm not just sucking up after the fact: I have no doubt whatsoever that exactly 0 billionaires read this blog.
Now, I know some billionaires are incredibly self-important jerks. But the ones I met this week were pretty much intensely smart people who were also funny and dynamic and interested in a huge variety of things. All of them were self-made men in their 30s, and all of them were made billionaires in the last ten or so years.
The funny thing about meeting these guys wasn't that I was totally awed by, say, their incredible vision for the future of society; it was that I really would like to hang out with them at a bar and shoot the shit. They're just cool people. They have really interesting thoughts and stories and they articulate them well, but they also cuss and drink and leer at girls and act silly. (One of them actually did close down a tiny bar in Monterey with us Friday night.)
It made me think a lot, because Hollywood has presented us with an image of rich people that's pretty stuffy and uniform and bland (c.f. Fresh Prince of Bel Air). But here's my thought: if someone just suddenly gave you a jet, what would you do? Whenever you needed to fly someplace, you'd probably take your jet, because, hey, you own a jet, why not, right?
But you'd still be you. There'd be all these people who hated you for having a jet, but you know you'd still be you inside. You're just you-who-happened-to-be-given-a-jet.
That's the thing about these guys. They get all this attention, but really, they're just smart guys who suddenly were given jets. They're as surprised about it as we are.