what bothers me is how the TED talks seem almost entirely designed to get the audience to repeatedly ooh and ahh..
True. But you'll get the same thing at an Apple or Microsoft conference.
I don't think it's so much a TED thing, as the way almost everything is being presented these days. Communication goes through fads. At one time, it was overhead projectors, then PowerPoint, then quasi-interactive web. And nowadays it seem to be pseudo-revivalist and football rally mass meetings. And there's one simple reason why this happens: It works.
Still, I wouldn't come down too hard on TED. It is a breath of fresh air in a technological landscape that often sees 'innovation' as nothing more than doing just enough to cut costs, or get to the next product release cycle.
To my way of thinking, enthusiasm coupled with an almost child-like sense of wonder isn't necessarily a bad thing. The USA has just come off eight years of rule by serious, humorless, pragmatic individuals. They didn't seem to make the world a much better place no matter how much they argued it was time for all of us to "get real."
I'll take the dancers and the dreamers any day of the week. The super-serious types may talk a good game, but most of the real innovation and advances come from the people who don't take themselves all that seriously. Maybe they don't need validation from other people because they already know they're smart.
I say let the smart kids have their 'open mic' night. If one of them piques my interest about something they're up to, I'll go off and do my own research on the topic. And at that point, I'll become very serious indeed.
Until then, bring on the elephants, the fireworks, and the dancing girls.