I love TED Talks. Over the years, I’ve shared a bunch of them at MyShingle. In many ways, Ted Talks are like a trip to the gym or an easy run: they make me feel both refreshed and virtuous without the sacrifice of a real lifestyle change needed for long term health benefits.
Now, however, I love TED even more. Because TED turned on itself, allowing a TED Speaker, UC San Diego Professor Benjamin Bratton to criticize the TED format from the inside. And boy did he ever. Not only did Bratton, predictably deride TED talks as trite or superficial, he lambasted them for being downright dangerous:
In this case the placebo is not just ineffective, it’s harmful. Because it takes your interest, energy, and outrage and diverts it into this black hole of affectation. Keep calm and carry on innovating. Is that the real message of TED? To me that’s not inspirational, it’s cynical. In the U.S. the right-wing has certain media channels that allow it to bracket reality. Other constituencies have TED.
Did Bratton’s critique kill Ted Talks? Of course not. In fact, the opposing view inspired interesting discussion and could potentially, give rise to other formats that might lead to real change.
Unfortunately, the TED-Style Reinvent Talks won’t have a squeaky wheel in the mix. Although my friend and respected criminal defense lawyer and blogger Scott Greenfield offered to provide an opposing view, there have been no takers.
Likewise, my private suggestion to the #ReinventLaw organizers to include solo and small firm practicing lawyers, who represent many of the clients for whom we are supposedly reinventing law, also went unaddressed. Currently, the Reinvent panel includes only three practicing lawyers at all; two are in small firm practice but represent larger clients, while one represents social entrepreneurs. I’ve long been concerned that the Future of Law movement couldn’t care one way or another the future of solo and small firm lawyers because after all, consumer clients can serve themselves with online forms. That’s certainly Richard Susskind’s view.
If ReinventLaw is to succeed, it has to include practicing lawyers, and it has to confront and address skeptics and critics. And because ReinventLaw presumably doesn’t have unlimited resources, it also needs to weed out ideas that have been tried before and failed.
An experienced lawyer like Scott can speak to all of these issues- and he’s actually offered to provide a different perspective at Reinvent even though there aren’t many people who are willing to represent a dissenting viewpoint in a room full of believers. Why not add him to the mix?