By Reuben Godfrey

Ideas worth spreading is the tagline of TED and, in that spirit, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. The blackened theatre and signature red-spot rug were provided by UCD’s innovation team at NovaUCD. Live speakers and a selection of TEDTalks videos were combined to spark discussion and connection in the small group of 100 attendees.

The topics being discussed (in 18 minutes or less!) were very wide-reaching; from language and literacy to climate change and ecology.. and from the influence of Hollywood to curing HIV. With such disparate topics being discussed careful curation is needed during organisation to ensure the audience is not washed-over with a deluge of great ideas with no bite-sized takeaways.

One recurring them throughout the day was the concept of mindfulness. The practice of paying attention to whatever is happening in the present moment with kindness towards ourselves and our experience, and without judgement. In recent years there has been a resurgence in mindfulness practice, particularly in tech companies. Initially fueled by west-coast, Buddhist, ideals of the founders and since gained popularity when it was demonstrated to lower health costs, increase employee productivity, help employees stay “on task” and reduce employee stress through a combination of breathing techniques and mental relaxation.

When looking at environmental change, for example, Dr.Marcus Collier, Senior Research Fellow, UCD School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy, discussed the opportunities in the novel ecosystems being created by large-scale human interaction across the globe. Eco-systems are ever-changing, we are part of those systems and if we are step into the situation with fresh eyes we can be more optimistic about the opportunities afforded to us through technology and the future might not be all doom and gloom.

Dr Charlotte Blease , Cognitive Scientist and Philosopher of Medicine, Researcher, University of Leeds & Harvard Medical School discussed the idea of Philosophy as a Right. She talked about her own, very positive, experiences working with teenagers and how important it is to allow poeple to understand that it’s a right  to ask big questions..

Indeed, getting to terms with ‘big questions’ seems to be something of an inevitability for future generations.. the increasing influence and proliferation of artificial intelligence, answering questions about consciousness and morality will be unavoidable. It’s not too difficult to imagine a near-future, for example, where you will have to explain to a child the difference between AI and true consciousness..

This spiritual theme was present, too, in the presentations from Dr Fred Cummins , Lecturer, UCD School of Computer Science, who looked at the the power of voice and language in creating a collective consciousness and in the video from Dr.Jill Bolte Taylor; My Stroke of Insight –  this esteemed ‘brain-scientist’ talks us through her experience of having a stroke and the explains the spiritual and intellectual insight she gained from unintentional physical disassociation between the rational and irrational parts of her brain – what some explain as enlightenment.

So, ideas worth spreading indeed.. these days, with physicists searching for God in a tunnel under the Alps, intellects espousing atheism and philosophers getting involved with quantum theory, perhaps the best idea is for us all to find a quiet place to sit down.. gently close our eyes and take a few deep breaths.. Namaste!


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