We are indeed blessed with many great scientific thinkers. Before the internet, us everyday normal people were unable to tap, or even come remotely close to understanding, let alone know of any of their forward thinking, innovative ideas. The closest thing we had, was the BBC television series Tomorrows World.
Even before entering my teens I absolutely loved that show. They predicted a number of future revelations for the 21st Century; flying cars, mobile telephones and remote controlled insects. Some of these were of course off the mark and perhaps even won't be seen until the next century. But occasionally, little gems such as the internet, Google glass and virtual reality, did come into fruition.
Today, Tomorrows World doesn't exist, instead we have the much celebrated TED talk. TED is perhaps one of the internet's greatest ways of sharing and learning information. Each talk is conducted by an individual presenting an idea, or is an effort to raise some degree of awareness to a problem or funding. TED is also a fantastic way to bridge the gap between the people in a particular field and the people whom are interested, but don't know enough about the subject to care for the jargon (this is me).
Benjamin Bratton a professor of visual arts wrote a recent article for The Guardian titled; We need to talk about TED. In the article he puts forward the idea that TED is a product of a "Pop Idol" audience and makes the reference to a friend putting on a talk at TED, where he was hoping to gain investment for a project:
"I was at a presentation that a friend, an astrophysicist, gave to a potential donor. I thought the presentation was lucid and compelling (and I'm a professor of visual arts here at UC San Diego so at the end of the day, I know really nothing about astrophysics). After the talk the sponsor said to him, "you know what, I'm gonna pass because I just don't feel inspired ...you should be more like Malcolm Gladwell."
He then went on to explain how he lost it;
"Think about it: an actual scientist who produces actual knowledge should be more like a journalist who recycles fake insights! This is beyond popularization. This is taking something with value and substance and coring it out so that it can be swallowed without chewing. This is not the solution to our most frightening problems - rather this is one of our most frightening problems."
Clearly what Benjamin is failing to see here, is exactly where his friend and Malcolm Gladwell differ. Like it or not, people want to be wowed into a state of inspiration with the hairs on the back of the neck in full salute! This has been the case since the beginning of time. I think that if you're a scientist who happens to be looking for funding, you should also maybe open your eyes up to the real world. People don't like statistic after statistic after statistic. Rightly said by the investor; he wants to be made excited by the prospect of whatever his investment might give him.
People that think like the above need to go back to school, spend less time in the classroom and more time in the playground. People want a show. So the next time you present your £1 million idea, remove the ego, train an actor or professional inspirational speaker to do the delivery, or just bite the bullet and get classes on how to present, because unfortunately for the socially retarded, without an awesome, inspiring delivery that clearly your great idea deserves, you will be met by the same kind of response.