Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 


TED talks solve many problems.

What to do with your Friday afternoons, for example. Or how to meet a lover with a similar mindset as you without looking as if you've trying to meet a lover with a similar mindset as you.

November 12, however, marked a real breakthrough in elevated TEDness.

A speaker stood on stage in Bristol, England and mesmerized all who were there.

The speaker was Bob. And Bob is a robot.

Naturally, they didn't leave him up on stage alone. Who knows what this machine might have wrought?

Instead, he moved his arms around and tried to look like the usual slightly nervous, overly clever person who performs on the TED stage.


Bob had a peculiarly human voice. One doesn't normally associate that with, say, Siri.

She, if she sounds human at all, reminds one of the sort of human that's been made of discarded pieces of metal and old Starbucks Christmas cups.

Bob's purpose, though, is to be loved.

He talked about the "science fiction ideal of having humanlike robots such as C3P0, be part of our everyday lives."

Yes, you can't go wrong with a Star Wars reference right now.

And Bob surely has a point. We don't really get on so well with each other. We're rarely understood by our fellow beings. So progress would surely be a robot who can understand us and tolerate our whims and woes.

In this case, the robot was merely mimicking the movements of his master. I saw a Beck concert once in which they had puppets mimicking the band's movements. It was quite brilliant. So Bob felt like something of a rip-off.

His voice, too, wasn't that of a robot but of his human enslaver.

Bob just wants to be understood. He's just another being trying to help humanity get along, get by and get what it wants every single second of its existence.

But then he uttered a cliché: "Robots are the future."

Somehow, technologists are fond of stating that whatever they invent must be the future, because they say so. A little like TED speakers, in fact.

When it comes to technology, though, we merrily go along with it because we're enchanted by techies' inventions while not always thinking through their consequences.

But let's not dwell on the depressing possibilities. Let's not even consider what Google's director of engineering Ray Kurzweil believes, which is that the minute we have mini-robots in our brains we'll be "godlike."

No, let's look forward to future TED conferences where every speaker is a robot.

No more need to watch nervous intellectuals and their PowerPoints. No more need to listen to far-flung theories spouted by humans, when only robots can fling far and hit their target.

TED will then become what its participants have always wanted it to be: Speed-dating for the clever and awkward.

Now that would be progress.