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8:27 Procrastination: A Viable Alternative to the Ath?

May 6, 2009

by Charlie Sprague
8:27 Procrastination: A Viable Alternative to the Ath?

Recently, a friend of mine who is graduating in 11 days got me hooked onto TED. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is an invitation-only event where world leaders and distinguished scholars gather to discuss everything from solutions to global poverty to the future of robots in war. On its website,, are hundreds of free fascinating, humorous, and informative lectures. Whether you want to hear Richard Dawkins argue in favor of militant atheism or see the scholar Hans Rosling’s mind blowing stats presentation and insights on development, TED has more than enough hours of addicting content for the curious procrastinator. For those like me who have devoured all the content they could want from, TED is also a great alternative form of procrastination because it causes less guilt than watching that favorite Arrested Development episode again. Its TED's genius and convenience that has allowed it to not only take over my weeknights, but also serve as an alternative to the Athenaeum. Although as a senior I certainly intend to take advantage of the Ath’s free meal policy, TED has become a compelling alternative to the Ath for me. I can choose whatever speaker or topic I’m interested in and easily end lectures that get boring without having to show the disrespect of walking out during an in-person talk. The TED lectures are generally shorter than Ath ones and can be enjoyed while eating dinner from a take out box, so you don’t lose over anywhere near two-plus hours of your night as you do with a full Ath dinner, speech, and question period.

I’ll admit the Ath has some advantages over TED. Eating dinner with your friends or talking with the speaker at the head table can be a lot of fun. Getting your questions answered can also make the Ath experience unique. Like Hulu videos, TED videos occasionally do not load fast enough to stream on your computer without pre-buffering during peak traffic times (I recommend buffering the video before leaving to get take-out). Despite these qualifications, TED makes a lot of sense for the time-constrained student who wants to guarantee that they listen to a lecture on a topic of personal interest. As students spend increasingly more time on the internet and come to expect highly individualized sources of information and entertainment, it makes one wonder about the long-term implications for the Athenaeum. I will not speculate in detail about the Ath’s future, but with budget cuts a likely reality for years to come and so many free lecturers available to students online, one can imagine that cutting back on Athenaeum spending would seem an attractive option for the administration. All I can say for now is that TED has proven a very fortunate discovery, especially since I have been rather unimpressed with the Ath lineup this semester.

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