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The head of TED Talks visits Santa Barbara to talk about how we can use the internet for good

John Schnobrich

Chris Anderson says the internet has become a very dark place. He has a new book on how people can use generosity to turn it in a home for good.

The internet started as a virtual place filled with promise. You could share ideas, educate others, or learn something yourself. It’s lived up to those ideas, and more.

But in recent years, it’s also become a very dark place, filled with negativity. "I just think most people are as sick as me about how mean the world is getting. The internet honestly has been kind of a crushing disappointment for the past ten years," said Chris Anderson. He was a journalist who became a media mogul, owning a number of magazines.

He created a foundation focused on tackling global issues. More than two decades ago, that non-profit bought an annual conference which brought together some of the world’s cutting edge thinkers. That conference was TED.

Anderson used the internet to help make TED Talks available to the world. It was just a conference when he took over. With the internet, he started putting talks online, making them available to the world. He also in effect gave away the license so local groups could do their own versions of the talks.

But, Anderson feels the internet has for the large part lost its way.

"Kindness is part of who we are, and we have kind of forgotten it," said Anderson. "We're thinking about each other way in the worst possible way, and we've got to stop that, and find the good sides in ourselves, and each other."

The head of the TED organization has written a book about this subject, called Infectious Generosity: The Ultimate Idea Worth Spreading.

"The book is an attempt to say wait a second...wait a second...we're not locked into this," said Anderson. "There's amazing generosity in people."

Anderson has some examples of the positivity he talks about in his new book. "Wonder, awe, kindness, better stories, stories which reveal the good side of human nature...there's a pathway to do that."

He thinks with some tweaks, it could be more the norm on the internet. The idea is that bad stories don't have to be the only ones which go viral. They can also be acts of kindness, or good. 

Anderson believes generosity isn’t about money. It’s about good deeds. He said just like social media can spread negativity, it could also be a powerful tool for good. And, he feels it can spark others to step up, whether it’s sharing time, expertise, money, or something as simple as kindness.

Anderson calls Infectious Generosity a playbook of sorts on how to spread good.

He’s going to talk about the idea at a free Tuesday night event at UC Santa Barbara. The first 400 people to show up at the 7:30 p.m. UCSB Arts and Lectures talk at Campbell Hall will get a free copy of the book.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.