What About BIL
BIL offers its own excellent adventure for roughly $6,000 less than TED.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
BIL stands for a lot of things. The tag words at the top of its wiki website offer a glimpse.
The title changes come with every refreshing click of the mouse – offering a fun-if-not-informative understanding of the idea sharing, curiosity and irreverence at the core of this first-ever guerilla meeting of the minds. (No, “benefficient” isn’t a word.)
Other hints of what the so-called BILders will be up to at the El Estero Complex while TED dominates downtown are similarly intriguing and similarly vague.
“Things to bring” include “a power strip” (after all, “everyone will have lots of electronic gadgets. Avoid fights.”); “snacks and drinks… food is provided by you”; and “a camp chair,” with a helpful link to a dynamite Dora the Explorer folding seat. Everyone who attends is supposed to speak. The event will be resolutely “self-organizing, emergent, and anarchic.”
But to understand BIL more clearly is to understand what it isn’t – namely, TED. Where TED is stratosphere-exclusive and invite only, BIL is open to anyone. While a TED ticket costs roughly the same amount as a year’s tuition to UC Berkeley, BIL is completely free.
“The unwashed masses don’t get invited to TED,” the BIL website reads. “TED is also $6,000, which is prohibitively expensive for most people, including a great number of people with good ideas worth spreading. BIL is being created as a free space for people with ideas to come together and spread them.”
BIL participants are careful to point out that they hold no animosity toward TED – in fact, according to Ted Huffman, a speaker and spokesman for the three-month-old organization, the event came about because they aspired to do more than just jock TED attendees.
“We were just going to go up to Monterey and hang out in restaurants and bars with our friends that were going to TED,” he says. “We thought, ‘Why don’t we do something distinct, creating more value than just being a groupie?’ ”
It’s enough to evoke an opening quote from : “We will form our own society,” says Chuck De Nomolos, the leader who looks to overthrow the society forged by Ted Theodore Logan and Bill S. Preston, Esq. “Brothers and sisters, are you with me?”
People are with BIL – Huffman says he has had to revise its wide-open-door policy because they’re running out of space, with 150 registered online to date. And despite the absence of any centralized leadership, BIL has attracted some speakers with some decidedly cool ideas to discuss.
TED veteran Aubrey de Grey’s idea is eye-popping enough: To win the war against aging (see story, this page). He’ll reveal how he took an idea that goes against all conventional thinking and organized people behind his cause – he says he’s already raised $6 million. Breakthrough blogger Sean Bonner will discuss “Anonymous vs. Scientology” – how a group of Internet users wielded their anonymity as a shield to overcome the Church of Scientology’s vindictive censors. Famed physicist and surfer Garrett Lisi, who will also attend TED, offers nothing less than “An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything.”
Huffman says these speakers will provide what little structure the event has – and the rest will take care of itself.
“The event in itself is kind of an experiment,” he says. “The kind of people that are drawn to those kinds of concepts are pretty interesting and motivated people, they’re not going to come in same room as each other and not do anything.”
If they should, BIL’s stance is clear.
“If you are in a room full of BILders and nobody is saying anything interesting, it is you who have failed,” the website warns. “Avoid failure, bring your own ideas. Ideas will not be provided for you.”