Everywhere Is Exotic Or Nowhere Is

At the opening of TED University, a pre-event of TEDGlobal 2010 in Oxford, England, TED Curator June Cohen emceed. During a technical difficulty, she filled the time on stage by asking us in the live audience of 600 gathered from around the world, "Who came the farthest to get here?"

A few people shouted out locations. Kenya. India. Los Angeles.

Cohen repeated into the microphone each place. When she said Los Angeles, she deflected it as a possible winner for farthest by saying, "LA isn't exotic."

But that wasn't the question she put to us. And --

Exotic is relative. The only way it belongs in a global mindset is as a constant for everyone. So, either everywhere is exotic -- or nowhere is. We are all exotic, or no one is.


For me, the moment highlighted an ingrained provincialism at a supposedly global conference dedicated to "pushing the boundaries of what is known and expanding the possible."

The idea of what global means is still badly under-developed, and like this instance, too often freighted with the most self-centric assumptions.