Cross-posted from Chris Anderson on Medium
Today you may have heard that TED announced a rather unusual experiment with Audible. I’m pretty excited about what we’re doing here and want to share some thoughts.
Broadcast journalist Jad Abumrad once said that the most powerful thing about audio is what it lacks … that is: pictures. When a human voice describes something, the listener’s brain is wired to connect images and assign meaning to that voice. This is true for the many creative and expanding possibilities that digital audio now offers.
This act of co-authorship — between the speaker and the listener — to fill the gap of “picturelessness” does something really interesting. It connects us, perhaps more intimately than any other medium. We’ve certainly learned how this rings true for audio content TED puts out to the world.
And here’s something else audio can do that is quite special. A voice disconnected from visual identity provides anonymity to the speaker — while at the same time, letting their ideas reach millions of people.
And so, through this partnership with Audible, we’re creating a platform for TED Talks to be given anonymously. Why is this important? We’ve made it our mission at TED to track down a special breed of under-celebrated hero: People who have knowledge that matters. We find them, and invite them to share their knowledge on a global platform that gets billions of views.
But what if that exposure — the very spotlight that until now has defined the TED Talk experience was actually the reason some people chose not to submit their ideas? How many people have an important message but refrain from “going public” out of fear of losing their jobs or hurting loved ones? How many ideas worth spreading remain hidden because some speakers simply can’t publicly be associated with the very thing the world needs to hear?
Our best guess? A lot.
“Sincerely, X from TED and Audible” is an original audio series that will feature talks from speakers whose ideas need to be heard, but whose identities must remain hidden. Sincerely, X lets us share important ideas without sacrificing the privacy of the speakers or those close to them. In other words, this thrilling project opens up a category of talks that simply haven’t been possible previously.
Imagine ghostwriters, witnesses, wise souls who’ve survived something profound. A public figure living with mental illness. Someone who secretly gave up a child for adoption. A teenager who fought back against bullying and won. A parent who found a way to balance the needs of an autistic child and a neurologically normal one. A doctor living with a life and death mistake. An illegal immigrant with ideas on how to change the system. A CEO who know exactly how and when companies go wrong. Someone living a double life.
We’re curating talks from those who need to separate their professional ideas from their personal lives; people who want to share an idea, but fear it would hurt others in their family or company if they did so publicly; perhaps even those who are just scared to death of public speaking.
There won’t be a stage, and there won’t be any standing ovations. But those aren’t the essence of TED Talks. What matters is only what can be shared: an idea that matters.
And so I am asking you to help the world bring these ideas out of hiding. Do you have an important idea too important to stay secret? We want to hear about it. Perhaps it will change someone else’s life — perhaps it will even have a shot at shaping a better global conversation and a better future for all of us.
Here is the form to submit your proposal for an anonymous TED Talk. Only our internal team will see what you write. (Please don’t leave your proposal as a comment on this page, for obvious reasons!)