Today I had the opportunity to attend the 2016 TEDx conference at the University of Stathclyde. Under the heading WORLD 2.0 the conference engaged a conversation about our shared future and the need for aspiring for progression. Six speakers with diverse backgrounds were invited to talk and each of them in their very own way showed how the idea of a single person can make a difference in world 2.0.
Impressions of TEDxStrath16
Speaker 1: Edgar Grunewald
The first speaker invited to talk was Edgar Grunewald. Known as a WorldBuilder who is running his own YouTube channel Artifexian, Grunewald talked about how to construct an entire world using simple maths. He showed us how numbers can tell a story; that is a story of a planet and two stars. Ultimately it turned out to be the Star Wars planet Tatooine. Grunewald’s talk showed us how to construct imaginary places like Tatooine which feature in some of the most prominent creative works today – from books over movies to TV series. Grunewald taught us about the world of sci-fi and by walking us through the mathematics of the planet Tatooine ultimately proved that you can build imaginary worlds that have their place in reality.
Speaker 2: Sajjad Khan
The second speaker of the day was Sajjad Khan who is a student at the University of Strathclyde. He invited the audience to “come out of the bubble”; he gave an inspiring talk about human interaction and ways towards a mindful world society. He shared with us his experience of volunteering with a water project in Africa. He argued that his work, i.e. the installation of water pumps, was perceived as a huge development in technology by the local population. He then vividly contrasted this with the development in technology in our society and the large gap between these two worlds. This led him to ask what – in world 2.0 – the word humanity means and what a human is in this world. He questioned how we justify war and bloodshed if we cannot even fight poverty. He spread the vision that being different should be an opportunity to get to know another in world 2.0 and invited everyone in the audience to become a changemaker to realise the vision of an embracing world society.
Speaker 3: Catherine Cahn
The third speaker of the day was Catherine Cahn, COO of Twig World. Cahn’s talk was centred on the future of education. She reasoned that in world 2.0 the essential skills are human creativity, problem solving and analytics while subject knowledge has become worthless with the availability of google and the like. Yet governments have wrongly focused on subject matters while labeling the arts as useless. Cahn questioned whether this is the right way in world 2.0; that is having a curriculum of 40 percent numeracy/ literacy skills and 60 percent subject matter. She reasoned that we need to revamp the curriculum and move to phenomena based learning. She argued in favour of the primary school model, i.e. the model of a single teacher engaging with the class going through the steps of: (1) Question Generation, (2) Investigation and (3) Phenomena. Cahn argued that in secondary school the model has to become student driven. In her opinion students need to learn problem solving, going through the steps of research, prototyping, feedback, iterating and publishing. This would allow students to learn the essential skills of mastering their life in world 2.0, instead of overloading children with useless content knowledge.
Speaker 4: Prof. Robert Kalin
The fourth speaker of the day was Robert Kalin, a professor of the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at the University of Strathclyde. He talked about his work as a hydrogeologist and his passion for water as the foundation of life and the lack of access to sanitised water in many places, especially in Africa. He talked to us about the importance of groundwater and what it means for life. He reasoned that access to water is access to life; it underpins everything including our economy. Yet the investment in water as one of the sustainable development goals is failing faster than the increase in effort that is put in. This exemplifies in so-called ghost water points. Kalin’s vision is to go from reactive to proactive action, targeting preventative maintenance. In his opinion, everyone can make a difference despite universal access to clean water being a huge challenge. The first step is to make the sustainable development goals part of your life and think about them every day.
Speaker 5: Dr. Michael Groves
The fifth speaker of the day was Michael Groves, CEO of Topolytics. He gave a talk on Can geography save the world? He showed us how big data and analytics can give us the necessary insights for this mission by tracking commercial waste and emissions. He reasoned that geography can help us becoming more sustainable by measuring and managing waste and tackling the vast amount of urban waste and the plastics floating in the oceans. It can help us tracking the use of resources and the massive growth in the extraction of resources. For him, geography is a sustainability science. With digital mapping and data, waste can be managed and information about it can be shared. It feeds into the goal of a circular economy; designing products for re-use and tracking the distribution of materials and waste. He invited us also to check out the book Prisoners of Geography to learn more on the importance of geography in world 2.0.
Speaker 6: Stefan Celosia
The last speaker of the day was Stefan Celosia, ex-physics graduate from Strathclyde, who is now a professional musician, composer and producer. Under the heading Survival of the Funkiest, he explored with us the history of music and the importance of music in world 2.0. With the help of technology, music making today is more accessible than ever before and is increasingly about ideas and not skills. He argued that music is an important motivational tool for most people today and left us with the question: Is creativity a means to an end, or could it be the end itself?
I must say that the TEDx Conference at Strathclyde was my very first TED experience at close quarters. I have watched numerous TED and TEDx talks, but being part of such a conference yourself is mindblowing! When I reflect upon the day, I can say that the conference and especially the speakers indeed shared ideas worth spreading and I am very grateful that I was given the opportunity to attend the conference this year!