Our duty to help defeat the rising darkness, or why Metasite is supporting TEDxVilnius 2017

“Though the élite that gets sneered at, by Trumpites and neo-Marxists alike, is composed of philosophers and professors and journalists, the actual élite of modern societies is composed of engineers, mechanics, and artisans—masters of reality, not big thinkers.” – Adam Gopnik, New Yorker

TEDxVilnius“Democracy only works in a growing economy. Without a return to economic growth, the democratic experiment will fail.” – Sam Altman, Y Combinator / OpenAI

The short answer is we are supporting TEDxVilnius 2017 because China didn’t conquer the world.

But we realize the short version of the answer may be a bit opaque to many – so let us dive into the long(-ish) answer.

Let us start by glancing backwards. Why did science and technology (and, with them, colonial power) spread west to east in the modern age, instead of another way around? Why didn’t China conquer the world and Europe did? Why didn’t Enlightenment happen in China?

The answer – if certain historians we have been reading lately are to be believed – is that in China the minds evolved but not the makers. The Chinese enlightenment happened, but it was strictly a thinker’s enlightenment, where Mandarins never talked much to the manufacturers.

In Europe it was different. It was the perpetual conversation between technicians and thinkers that made the Enlightenment advance.

How is this relevant to our today’s question?

Let’s jump to the current day. TED talks – and the culture surrounding them – get satirised nowadays by some. We, however, believe that people making fun of the TED phenomenon are mostly clueless.

We are convinced that public forums that facilitate free exchange of ideas between thinkers and makers, are, in effect, what separate modernity from antiquity and the West from the East. They are drivers of progress and Enlightenment. And we see the TED series of events as the best-developed global forum of this kind.

As Adam Gopnik recently pointed out in an excellent article on the topic:

“Guys who think big thoughts talking to guys who make cool machines — that’s where the leap happens.”

At Metasite, being engineers, designers, analysts, testers – modern day makers of things – we see ourselves as a tiny part of the real elite of the modern society. And being part of that elite, we see it as our duty to do our bit in supporting continued advancement of Enlightenment – especially today, when reactionary forces of authoritarianism are on the rise in many countries, seeking to roll back history, undo progress, take away our liberties, discredit scientific thought and throw all of us right back into new dark ages.

And that’s exactly why this year Metasite team is supporting and sponsoring TEDxVilnius again. Because cultural and technological progress happens when thinkers and technicians talk. And cultural and technological progress brings economic growth. And democracy only works in a growing economy. And all of us want to live in a society that is democratic, enlightened, tolerant and prosperous.

All of us. Except maybe Darth Vader. But that’s an inside joke we’ll leave unexplained.

Join TEDxVilnius: SyZyGy at the Lithuanian National Drama Theatre on the 10th of June. Head to TEDxVilnius site to learn everything there is to learn about this fantastic event. See you there!

For those of you who can’t make it – there will be live broadcasts available so be sure to check out TEDxVilnius site for updates.

P.S. Just as last year, Metasite team members who get admitted to TEDxVilnius 2017 will have their tickets paid for by Metasite.