Sunday, June 1, 2014

TEDxSydney on Reflection - Top 5 talks

It’s been a few weeks since the TEDxSydney was on at the Sydney Opera House, the media hype is over but I think it's time well spent reflecting on some of the TEDxSydney talks.

Each person would have got something different out of the TEDx talks, whether it was educational, inspirational, thought provoking, entertainment, everyone would have got something out of it. Each TEDx speaker harnesses an intangible, an idea, and brings it to life through the power of storytelling, but not any story. A TEDx talk is brought to life through stories of a speaker’s own experiences - joy, pain, suffering, awkwardness, criticism, anguish, despair, courage, thoughtfulness – humanising an issue, a problem, a solution or an idea, which captivates each member of the audience, drawing them into the speaker’s shoes that would provoke a conversation and encouraging thoughts to be shared. A TEDx talker has the courage to be vulnerable by getting up on stage in front of over 2000 people to share their own personal experience. That takes guts. That’s what TEDx talks are about. That’s why TEDx talks move people.

There were certainly no shortage of talks that moved me in someway. Here are a handful of my highlights – those talks that resonated with me and that I would watch again and again. The good thing is even if you were not in Sydney, TEDxSydney has recordings of each talk online so anyone can listen to the talks in their own time.

#1 Megan Washington. Megan’s talk and performance at the end was moving and got me a bit emotional. The sheer strength of courage to get up on stage at the Sydney Opera House and stumble and stutter her way through her talk about living with a stutter, with every eye scrutinising and waiting for her next stutter took a lot of guts. But it also showed how little she cares for her stutter or how people perceive her because of it. Megan talks of her "mortal dread of public speaking" and that she "never talked about so explicitly" about her stutter before. She talked about how people thinks she is drunk all the time and worse things can happen like "meeting another stutterer" who thinks she is mocking them. But singing is a totally different ballgame and Megan concludes her talks with a performance to her new song To Or Not Let Go, which she delivers with sheer perfection. I really was captivated with her talk, her song and her performance was so moving it felt like I was taken to another place.

#2 Nicole Vincent. Nicole Vincent, an Australian philosopher and neuro ethicist based in Atlanta, Georgia, USA and Delft, The Netherlands spoke alarmingly at TEDxSydney about the use and dependency of cognitive enhancement drugs. “Suppose there was a pill you could take, a pill that would make you more intelligent, smarter, help you focus, stay awake, help you learn. Would you take it?” she asks. Nicole made us question if you were a student, would you pop the pill to get better grades at college; if you were a surgeon who has just undertaken a long operation and about the operate on another patient, would you pop the pill knowing that it will make you fight fatigue; would an employer expect flight attendants of long haul flights to pop the pill in order to stay awake? Will we as a society be expected to take the pill to enhance our own performance, in the same way as drinking coffee, taking pain killers and using smart phones is considered normal?

My first observation is that consumption of the drug, even without immediate adverse side effects, over long periods of time can’t be good for you. It’s like drinking coffee or caffeine drinks – one cup might not do much harm, but what if it is consumed excessively? What will it do to your body and your health?

Secondly, my own response to this question is one of resistance as I grew up with the slogan ‘say no to drugs’. But what if there is significant advancement of technology to boost your staying power, memory, wakefulness, attention, reflexes and clarity of thought and there really was no adverse side effects in taking the drug - would I take it? What if everyone else took it? Our society may pressure or expect us to take the drug in order for us to study, work, live, keep up and remain competitive. This is a frightening concept and a more serious discussion on the moral, legal and social issues is warranted on the prospect of cognitive enhancement drugs becoming the new normal.

#3 Adam Alter. Adam Alter is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave. Adam's talk was interesting because he explained to us about a study he had performed to prove how certain things we encounter in our daily lives can shape our thoughts and personality. We all think we have one fixed type of personality but there can be subtle cues that could influence how honest generous, open-minded we are. For example, putting up a picture on a pair of eyes near a donation jar may influence people to donate more money; naming cyclones after the most common guy or girls’ names could encourage more donations; and wearing the colour red may increase your chances on being asked out on a date. Adam’s insights provide good pointers to businesses on their marketing strategies and influencing customer behaviour.

#4 Post. This performance was entertaining and somewhat thought provoking, using theatre to illustrate the meaning of theatre. Post are a unique collaborative performance ensemble based in Sydney comprising Zoë Coombs Marr, Mish Grigor and Natalie Rose, whose performance at TEDxSydney opened up with "What is theatre?"

#5 Stella Young. Having a disability does not make you inspirational. This is the key message from Stella Young’s TEDx talk on Inspiration Porn and the Objectification of Disability at the Sydney Opera House held a couple of weeks ago. Read my interview with Stella Young.

And for pure entertainment, watch The Battle of Who Cares Less? Who do you think won?

Overall, an epic day filled with fantastic talks to keep you pondering for years to come!

1 comment:

  1. Megan Washington is one of my favourite artists, but I tend to not delve too much into their personal lives and instead focus on their music. I was so surprised to see her Ted Talk and lapped it up. I've heard countless interviews with her on the radio and not once picked up on the "sing song" tone of her public speaking.
    All at once I was overjoyed she'd shared with everyone but saddened that she felt she had to hide it for so long.