I'm here today to talk at you about problems.
The world is full of problems. Word problems. That Middle East thing. Chafing. How many people here have chafed today?
-raise hand, wait for chuckles and applause to die down-
Just me then. OK. That's fine. I've got my problems and you've got yours. In fact, I bet that this group of smart, and I can't help but notice, handsome and wealthy people, has an inordinate number of problems.
Excluding the outliers in the upper left quadrant -- the so-called "poor fucked sub-population" -- there is a clear correlation between money and problems.
How many people are concerned about education? We've got big problems there, I've heard. And fat children? Man am I sick of fat children. And I bet I'm not alone. In a sense -- in the sense that if you don't think about it that hard -- we, as a society, are defined by how we address these problems.
So how do we do that?
Well, because I'm up here speaking and you're down there listening, I guess I'll tell you. Using the twin powers of thought and sitting in front of a word processor, combined with the third twin power of vagueness, I've figured out what to do with problems. With all problems.
They're called Solutions.
This sounds obvious, so obvious that you might be a little angry about how much you've paid to hear me tell this to you. But simmer down, and listen to how I came to this startling conclusion.
-cross arms, wait for audience to simmer down-
Thank you, maam. So first we have to figure out where problems originate from. And we want to of course speak as generally as possible. This isn't something easy, like figuring out what to do with all the fat children. That's a specific problem, whose specificity makes it easily solved -- in this case by buying bigger chairs for the classroom. No, if we want solutions for all problems, we have to get to the root of all problems.
The word "problem" originates from the Greek word "problema," which meant "problem." If you look just a little bit further down in most dictionaries, you can find a list of antonyms for problem. One of those antonyms is "solution."
"Ahh," I hear you shouting angrily. "Where do the solutions come from?" many of you are adding, also by shouts. Some of you are saying other, more hurtful things. I'm hearing the word "charlatan" thrown around a lot. Well I'll tell you where we get the solutions. From the future.
Yeah, I went there, didn't I? You guys like the future, don't you? It gives you towering, futuristic erections, doesn't it?
Anything is possible in the future, lady with a surprising futuristic erection.
Let me explain, using an example from the future's nemesis, the past. In the past, we used to have a big problem with the bubonic plague. Killed millions of people. No one could figure out why. Big problem. And it turns out the solution was soap. Where did that solution come from?
The future. They didn't have soap back in the past. Or they did, but they didn't know it stopped the plague. They may have tried burning the soap, or throwing the soap at evil spirits, or really anything instead of applying it topically, which was the real trick. The past didn't know about soap and the future did, which is why the future -- in this case, us -- doesn't have to worry about plagues. Or B.O.
So how do we listen to the future? Well, we all have a limited ability to see into the future. I know, for example, that I am going to shit my pants if I don't use the toilet regularly. That's a small insight, but these small insights can build up, one on top of another, like a turd stalagmite, until we can see deeper into the future. And who's the best at seeing into the future? The keepers of the turd stalagmites. It's the inventors. The creators. It's the people making technologies -- technologies like tiny robots and whatever the cloud is and "fisting video torrents." They're the ones marking the way toward the future.
That's you people. You're going to change the world.
I notice a lot of you seem angry with me right now. Show of hands who's angry with me.
-Make a show of counting-
Seven thousand of you. OK. Well, as I'm sure many of you have guessed by now, I am not Fields Medal-winning mathematician Dr. G.K. Mutharasan. I am, as many of you have guessed, a mysterious stranger who has incapacitated Dr. G.K. Mutharasan somehow.
Chloroform is what we in the Big Ideas industry call an "omni-solution."
Many of you are now wondering how I got in here. "How did this fucking charlatan get in here?" I'm hearing. Well, it turns out that I live in the caverns beneath this multi-use performing arts center, where I spend my time eating food that slips through the floorboards, and mulling over the problems of our age.
I also, and I have no shame about admitting this, sneak into the theater after everyone goes home and pleasure myself until the sun comes up.
You see, you've hosted TED talks here many times now, and from my nest in the bowels of the facility, I have heard all of them, and after feeling inspired, immediately forgotten basically all of them.
Why did I keep forgetting them? What's the problem?
After considering this for awhile, and masturbating myself to sleep many, many times right where you sit, I decided to synthesize all the TED talks I heard into a single talk, to see if that offered any clues. And I think it did; that's what I just threw in your face, incidentally. Felt like a good way to drive a couple points home, and I was also pretty proud of that poo stalagmite metaphor I worked up.
But what, other than the obvious tendencies toward over-simplification and patronization, did I find? Well, it would seem that smart people, or at least people who enjoy thinking they're smart, are very interested in feeling smart. We like getting things; it's the moment of revelation that everyone lusts for, not the seven months of research and dead ends that lead to it. And because we like these revelations so much, they've become a commodity, the production and consumption of which involve serious money. Entertainment money. We are the Everybody Loves Raymond of the MIT set.
I guess the masturbating subterranean troll in this analogy is Brad Garrett?
Is there a solution to this? Well, if you're annoyed at the idea of being a consumer of someone's entertainment product, I think acknowledging the problem is a good first step. Stop being addicted to revelations, stop buying in to the Big Ideas industry. If you are interested in changing the world, understand that your big moment is likely going to come after months and years of hard work, and not from hearing someone else condense their years of hard work into a five-minute PowerPoint.
And if you're not interested in changing the world, like maybe you're just kind of tired today, that's fine. Enjoy consuming big ideas. Just, on behalf of your bosses, maybe don't consume so many of them when you have actual work to do.
And that's it. I'd like to thank you for your time. I'd also like to thank Dr. G.K. Mutharasan for being such a good sport, and for being almost comically easy to overpower. Finally, if anyone wants to leave any food or tips, just tuck them into your seat cushions -- I'll get to those later. Probably just wash your hands after, I guess. Maybe ... maybe wash everything regardless.
-Big wave, smoke bomb, sprint for the exits-