The TED Talk is a modern day phenomenon that has captured the interest and imagination of people across the world. The premise is simple. A speaker has a stage upon which to present an idea to a wider audience.
With a name that means technology, entertainment and design, there is a wide range of potential subjects and demographics to target here. The videos reach an audience that expands beyond the auditorium.
The creation of the TEDx Talks takes this to a new level. Subjects and symposiums on a theme are now brought together with different speakers with a key interest in common.
On March 28th, this occurred at Trinity College Dublin. Here they held their first TEDx event at the Tercentenary Theatre of the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute.
The theme for the event, sponsored by Bank of Ireland, was Place Your Bets. The theme was all about decision-making processes and the gambles that we take in our lives.
There were ten speakers on hand, in the familiar TED Talk set-up, and the videos were broadcast online. There were humour and poignancy in the motivation speeches, propositions and life stories.
Four of these talks came from Professors linked to Trinity College and its departments.
Unsurprisingly, it was the academics that made up the largest portion of the speakers for this event. Professors from various walks of life provided talks on specialist subjects while sticking with the theme. Their standing and experience gave weight to some interesting topics that took the Place Your Bets theme into very different directions.
It all began with Professor Richard Latye, who is currently a Sociology lecturer at Trinity. The underlying theme here was the rise of nationalism and populism due to the banking crisis and austerity. It brought up questions of identity and personal life choices due to changes in the political climate. There was also the idea of a nation with a nostalgia that didn’t exist.
Professor Ruth Byrne, a leading Cognitive Sciences professor, looked more deeply into the inner working of the brain. How cognitive thought and the presence of the imagination helps to shape personal life decision.
A key question here focused on the importance of the imagination for the creation of alternative realities. These hypothetical situations can be helpful in decision making and moral judgements, more so than we may suspect.
Professor Ian Robertson – the founder of Trinity’s Institute for Neuroscience – questioned how to find the balance between excitement and stress in life. Positive life experiences require a steady balance between the two. He discussed that there is a sweet spot between being too stressed and not stressed enough.
Professor Frank Banister is a professor in Information Systems with interest in the development of technology. He spoke on the current status of technology over infrastructure and the risk of bureaucracy. This was all linked in with references to Orwell’s 1984.
Then there were the students of the college, old and current, with their views.
It was not just the professors and leading figures in Trinity that took to the stage with ideas and thoughts on the Place Your Bets theme. There were also three different talks from students linked to the university.
Ioustina Martin, one of the few women speaking at the event, focused on a more motivational talk. The subject here was creating your future, with a focus on social climbing and the study of success.
Alex Gogarty revealed a more personal account of life choices and personal situations with this talk on depression. He spoke candidly about his mental illness issues through his teens, the stigma attached and his coping mechanisms.
Then there was Ben Butler, a former student. He spoke on the importance of a routine and the complexity of good days and bad days. His ideas of productivity were woven with links to Aesop’s fables.
This trio of talks provided an interesting look at the issue from a younger perspective.
With the professors, viewers saw a rational mind looking in on the issue. With the younger speakers, there was the sense of life choices in action.
Finally, there were other notable speakers to tie the event together and bring in outside parties.
One of the benefits of having a symposium like this in a venue such as Trinity College was that speakers of various walks of life could contribute. In addition to the professors and students associated with Trinity, there were three other speakers.
Ed Vulliamy is an author and journalist who gave one of the more thought-provoking and memorable talks. The talk had the title of Human Endurance in the Face and Aftermath of Disaster. It told a personal story of encounters in Bosnian concentration camps in the 1990s
One of the key themes here was the concept of survival and the effect of this situation on life choices.
Marco Streng took a different, more positive approach in his business-led talk. Streng is the CEO of Genesis Mining. In addition to charting his personal journey to success in the company, he spoke on the rise of the bitcoin. He celebrated this invention for the ability to offer financial support for new businesses in Africa.
Here two life choices – a donation and plan of activities – can turn into an enjoyable journey. Finally, there was one of the more well-known speakers of the event.
Senator David Norris, the first openly gay senator for Ireland, spoke about gay rights and equality in Ireland. It was an interesting, humorous story of LGBT discrimination and the act of decriminalization in Ireland.
This first TEDx Talk event is hopefully the first of many.
This was the inaugural event for the college, with plans to turn this into an annual occasion in the future. Trinity proved to be a great setting for the event, with the diverse speakers and the way in which they presented the theme.
It took the college around 18 months to get the licence to promote these tales and the accreditation from the Central Societies Committee. They won’t give up the chance to do it all again without a fight.