Cloudflare TV

Web Summit 2022: Chris Anderson (TED)

Presented by João Tomé, Chris Anderson
Originally aired on 

Join João Tomé for Conversations at Web Summit 2022, one of the biggest tech conferences in the world — held November 2022, in Lisbon, Portugal.

In this interview, Chris Anderson, the head of the project TED (, goes over where TED is going next; what he expects for the future of the Internet; the most memorable interviews Chris did and gives an input on Elon Musk and his more recent Twitter endeavor.

Web Summit

Transcript (Beta)

Chris Anderson, Ted. I guess I'm the head of TED. And you're based on? New York City.

TED is a series of conferences.

We capture the talks and share them freely with the world.

So TED has become Ideas with Spreading. That's our moniker. And TED is around a few years ago, from now already.

You use the Internet to communicate to all over the world those ideas, in a sense.

What is the evolution of the past few years?

How do you use the mediums, the new social media platforms and all that, to communicate those ideas?

TED started in 1984, but it took off in 2006 when we could put the talks online.

And to our surprise, they went viral and created this global audience.

The Internet continues to evolve and it's to stay fresh.

You have to keep looking at what's happening out there.

You can't let presentation styles become clichéd. People want to feel like they're hearing something fresh.

That's the main thing we do.

Some people think there's a formula to giving a TED talk. Not true. As soon as you think there is, that talk is going to be boring and clichéd.

So we're constantly trying to have speakers find their voice, their way of communicating what matters.

But at the heart of it is the thought that what really matters in the world is ideas.

Ideas are what have shaped history.

We often tell the story of current events in terms of leaders and politics and so forth.

Politicians come and go, ideas are forever.

I think that's fundamentally the appeal of TED. When you're hearing someone giving you a new way of looking at the world, it just makes you excited.

You feel like, OK, that makes sense.

It creates a new sense of possibility. This is the miracle of ideas.

We can literally reimagine the future and share that with someone so that you can see this new possibility space which, through shared intention, you can actually create.

No other species on the planet can do that. It's kind of a miracle.

In terms of Israel, I think it's fascinating. Just thinking of how we build companies to do products, to make something better.

We build even societies around that idea of being collaborative.

We have scientists that collaborate to build stuff.

And having a space where different people with different set of ideas can share and collaborate is really a powerful idea in terms of the larger scope.

Wikipedia was a bit of that in the written form, but you add more depth to that.

So many people have a view of the world that is kind of zero-sum.

They see the world as just a battle of who has resources, and it's a push-pull situation.

Once you enter the world of ideas, there are other possibilities there.

Yeah, it's important to fight certain battles for power, I guess.

But even better is to create, to build, to create new possibilities so that actually everyone can win.

And that's the miracle of the world of ideas. So yeah, Wikipedia.

No one thought you could have a massive encyclopedia on the Internet that was edited by everyone.

It cost a tiny fraction of what Microsoft invested in Carter on the Internet and completely blew it away, completely blew it away by orders of magnitude.

And the Internet is like that. It makes possible all kinds of collaborations.

For us, the fact that people were willing to share ideas freely across the world.

I mean, TED has never spent money on marketing. This was all word of mouth is how it spread.

And it resulted in people offering to translate our talks into 100 languages.

We have like 20,000 plus volunteer translators. Again, you couldn't imagine this in a pre -Internet age.

And then the fact that TEDx organizers are willing to host TED events everywhere in the world on their own expense and risk and time.

That's amazing as well. So I love the notion of this world of possibility that we've created where by connecting everyone, amazing things can happen.

Unfortunately, also some terrible things can happen, but that's the battle we're all fighting.

In terms of storytelling, things haven't changed completely, but there's new mediums.

There's TikTok. YouTube has a big role also, but social media in general.

Podcasts are a thing for the past few years.

How do you use the different channels to do stuff? Because there's TED talks, but now you also have longer format interviews on podcasts.

How do you use those?

Yeah. I mean, the big picture is that the human voice has finally been allowed to go to global scale.

For centuries, since the Gutenberg press was invented, the only way that we communicated at scale was through the written word.

And when you step back and think about that for a minute, that's missing out a huge element of what it is to communicate.

Where as humans, we send so many other signals through how we speak, through voice.

And so I think it's underappreciated how big a deal it is that online video and then things like podcasting and all these other ways of allowing voices to speak because they definitely connect with people differently.

I think if social media had been voice only instead of little text fragments, they wouldn't have created all the hatred they've created.

So yes, that medium keeps innovating. I think we definitely want to be relevant on media like TikTok.

So for example, there's a TED Talks channel on TikTok, which is doing fine.

But we don't want to go too far down that route.

Ultimately, what we're tapping into is the power of the most ancient communication channel that's wired deeply into us, which is just people talking to each other and listening to each other.

It goes back to countless generations of people gathering around campfires.

It's a deep part of who we are. We can't ever forget that.

So that's always going to be at the heart of TED. We're taking ever more seriously our role as educators.

We have this wonderful TED -Ed project that turns teachers' best lessons into short animations that get pretty much a billion views annually now.

That's been really exciting to see. I think there's so much more we could do.

It's kind of a miracle that for the first time in history, every child really has access to the world's best teachers right there on their smartphone.

Some people don't have smartphones now.

Within 10 years, pretty much everyone will. That is a shift of historical importance.

So let's serve them. Let's do everything we can. TED Talks and TED-Ed can provide a little part of the mix, but we should be collaborating with many other education providers to help allow people to have a lifetime of education.

We should all be lifelong learners. I find that exciting, and so we're reaching out to others to see how we can collaborate.

There's a lot of talk in trust online these days.

News organizations, where to trust in terms of information, young kids also learning what to trust.

Do you think there's a challenge there?

Too much information, but what to trust? Yeah, I do. It's a big problem, and it's made worse by the fact that we've got this dynamic on social media of people finding everything wrong with each other, finding many reasons to hate other people, and that is creating a self -fueling cycle of division.

So we need to reverse that and find ways to build things together.

It's basically by doing something cool with someone else, you build trust that way.

But in many ways, it's the most precious resource that civilization has, and we're in danger of throwing it away.

So it's a big issue. About that, Elon Musk now is on the news because of Twitter.

Is there any question that you would like to ask him now, right now, at this time?

You've interviewed him a bunch of times, but what do you think is the main thing he or everyone should be focused on?

Yeah, he's a remarkable man. He's controversial. He definitely does some odd things.

I think some of his tweets are ill-advised. But when you talk with him, and I've talked to him on several occasions, you discover someone who is deeply thoughtful, and I think at heart is genuine in his belief that he's acting on behalf of humanity.

I don't think he's a right-wing lunatic. I think he's going to try, at least, to make Twitter less crazy.

Right now, the key to getting amplified on Twitter is to be a combination of politically extreme, reckless with the truth, and being willing to be quite obnoxious in the language you use.

In other words, the more you can taunt the other side, the more attention you'll get, and those are the tweets that are getting amplified.

I guess my one question for him would be, what are you going to do to stop that?

I think he has a plan.

I wouldn't bet against him. And usually, he tries things, right? He has a plan, but he adapts a lot.

He tries things. Yeah, exactly. He's been impressively decisive and fast.

He's gone in there and he's operating at absolute blitzkrieg speed.

It's amazing to watch. Whether he's going too fast, we'll see. He's probably our generation's most impressive tech entrepreneur.

If you objectively stand back and look at what he's built, it is breathtaking.

I think Twitter's as big a challenge as he's had.

It doesn't all play to his strengths, but like I said, I wouldn't bet against him.

Well, this is the existential question for humanity.

There's a chance that it takes us into dystopia.

I spoke about this here this morning, but there's a chance that if we continue to provoke the worst in each other, we'll make it impossible to do anything else except fight and bicker.

We could tear apart a lot of what we've built.

I'm hopeful that people realize how crazy this is and that there are huge efforts underway to moderate the worst of this.

I think it needs new business models.

I think it needs absolute determination by the big companies and by everyone else online to try to remember what the Internet's actually good at.

The Internet is amazing at pulling people together.

There are lots of beautiful things that can go viral online.

We need to double down on doing that, on getting past the situation where the only stuff that is viral and compelling is the dark stuff, which is what our algorithms are currently doing to us.

That's unbelievably dangerous.

Well, definitely Elon.

There was an interview I did with him about Twitter, but I think the interview is better still.

I think they were both good, but I think the better still one was I got to sit down with him for a couple hours at the Gigafactory in Texas and really hear his thoughts about what it will take to make a future that's exciting.

We went through a lot of stuff there, and I think there is a chance that that future can be built and that it will be exciting.

That was definitely pretty good.

Let's see. I was going to say Bill and Melinda Gates.

I sat them down together when they were still together and asked them about their philanthropy.

When there's so much wealth in the world, it's really important that we see it being turned to good purpose.

I think they did a pretty good job of doing that. Then I loved interviewing Yvonne O'Harari.

He's got such an amazing mind. He sees humanity in big-picture terms that is exciting, so I've interviewed him a couple of times on the podcast and at TED.

He's a great guy.

He's a great guy.

Thumbnail image for video "Web Summit"

Web Summit
Join us for conversations at Web Summit, the annual marquee tech conference held in Lisbon, Portugal.
Watch more episodes