Saturday, March 5, 2016

TEDxUCincinnati 2016

I have been a huge fan of TED talks (Technology, Entertainment and Design) and find myself fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the conference in person today. There was TEDx conference today at the University of Cincinnati (TEDxUCincinnati) and in this blog post I wish to share some of the points that I remember from the very profound talks given by an amazing line of speakers. 

I would also like to state clearly that this post may not capture each and every idea of  even a single talk; let alone a summary of all the talks today. While it was a brilliant event, but that also means that there was a lot to absorb and take in. Through this post, I'm only able to share my understanding of the points that I could remember and walked out with today.

TEDxUCincinnati, 2016
The theme of today's conference was - Cosmopolitan. When I heard about it for the first time, my view of the term was the following - to be willing to embrace any differences instead of seeing them as conflicts. The differences can be of any type - cultural, religious practices, traditions, societal and so on

I would say that today's talks broadened my understanding. The idea is not only limited to being open to differences but also seeking ways on actively engaging (and hence taking action) with other people irrespective of any biases. As one of the speakers said in defining cosmopolitan, "To be you is to interconnect with others". If we find ourselves privileged to be receiving certain opportunities in life, then asking ourselves on how we can pass it on to others in the community. How can we make a positive influence in others lives that goes beyond our families and near and dear ones. 

One of the talks really hit upon a common behavior that most of us follow. When we notice any form of discrimination, we tend to ignore it  by stating that we are not the one who is discriminating. It is the society as a whole or someone else. In essence, what we are doing is actually giving an excuse to our bias. We are shedding the responsibility onto others and turning a blind eye. In our quest to becoming more cosmopolitan, what we need to do instead is - inspect our institutions invisible biases. 

What may seem ironical at this point is that we indeed are talking a lot about globalization today. Then are we not becoming cosmopolitan? As an answer to this question, think about the unrest going on in the world - be it in terms of wars or national and international rules, regulations and policies.  So, where are we missing the point? Why do we seem to be moving farther from our goal despite the globalization which should in fact be uniting us? Here are some potential insights.

First, in this age of big data, what we forget about is that ultimately it is about people. And even more - making a personal connection with people.  Secondly, we need to work on our existing mindset where we look at the world as a group of nations. Even within a single country, we sometimes create 
Universal Truths of Humanity
Our shared values and goals 
cultural divides. We create stereotypes in our minds towards people which only serve to cloud our judgments and thinking about them. One of the ideas shared by the speaker was the following - when we see differences, we should also remind ourselves of the same goals and values we share in life. This would breed empathy. 

What I find particularly fascinating about these talks is the presentation and sharing of the science behind ideas, new perspective of looking at the same things that I often come across or experience, to be able to look at the grand scheme of things in life, learn about other people's struggles only to make me stop whining and start looking at the bright side of things and situations in life. To feel grateful for all that I have and how I tend to take them for granted sometimes. One of the talks addressed the challenges faced by people living in slums in India. Some people live on $1.25 per day! 

Before I conclude this post, I would recall two points captured from two different talks today.

1. We would need to give up something on this journey of serving communities. As an example, it can be giving up on few hours of sleep to make time for working on your community effort, or giving up on a certain plan of yours to save money that you can direct towards this direction. Ask ourselves what are we willing to give up. 
2. When we work towards making a difference to the community, there will be times when our efforts may not seem enough to make any difference. But through consistent and persistence efforts and as long as we enjoy the process, our small pushes will count and eventually give results. 

We often measure our lives, base our happiness and success on milestones, achievements, and results. But what we miss is that in between these goals, the process it takes to get to them also matters. We need to respect the process as well since the joy of accomplishment and results are mere flashes of existence.

I very much enjoyed the conference today and glad to have written this post right away.

-- Dippy