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Rebooting your mind with Ctrl Alt Del: TEDxYouth@VictoriaPark 2021 event highlights

By Hanan Hammad, August 26 2021—

The TEDxYouth@VictoriaPark event was hosted on July 10 at the CSpace Centre.  

TED, an acronym for Technology, Education and Design, is a conference that started in California in 1984. TEDx Talks are a licensed subsidiary of TED, where thousands of TEDx events take place in over 800 cities and 125 countries worldwide. 

TEDxYouth@VictoriaPark is a subsidiary licensee of TEDx whose purpose is to provide youth under the age of 25 the opportunity to share their ideas on the famous TED stage. Each speaker is required to audition and share their ideas to the committee, who then narrow all the topics to a single theme for the TEDx event for that year. Once chosen, a Speaker Coach will be assigned to mentor and work with one speaker until the day of the event to tailor their speech to the TEDx Talk format. 

This year’s theme of Ctrl Alt Del symbolizes the process of challenging the status quo and rebooting the way you were programmed to think. The master of ceremonies for the event, Joshua George, introduced the theme by stating that Ctrl Alt Del is meant to highlight individuals who have dared to cut old, negative thinking habits and pursue better ones.

“By terminating unnecessary tabs and clutter within their lives, these [speakers] have made the bold decision to reset their lives, and push their risky, but innovative ideas forward,” said George. 

The eight speakers — Thabo Chinake, Richard Lee-Thai, Jennifer Bohn, Arzina Jaffer, Munib Ali, Juliana Svishchuk, Hailey Lu and Shaaden Salem — each utilized their different backgrounds and experiences to convey this theme.

Chinake’s talk revolved around activism, self-censorship and having the courage to broaden one’s worldview by learning from other people’s experiences. As an activist and spoken word poet, Chinake utilized his personal experiences and reflected on the following question: “How can we show good leadership online?”

Through his own experiences on social media and reflecting on social media movements, Chinake stated that we should not allow our fear of judgement to stop us from sharing our stories and perspectives online if we choose to lead with an open heart and mind.

“As long as you are clear, aware and compassionate, you have nothing to fear before you hit send on that post or that tweet,” Chinake said to conclude his talk. 

Waiting for the perfect moment to connect with someone is a common social fear, and Richard Lee-Thai highlighted a solution in his TEDx talk through the acronym “E.T.C.” E.T.C. or the “Excuse to Connect” is all about bridging the gap between you and the other person. 

“Instead of passively waiting for the right conditions to perfectly align so [one] can talk to [another], [one can] actively create those conditions to make those connections easier,” said Lee-Thai. 

Through sharing many examples, particularly his work through Humans of ULethbridge (HOUL), inspired by the Humans of New York project and UCalgary’s HOUC club, Lee-Thai emphasizes that all humans are searching for the same thing — connecting with other humans.

Through the repeated use of “None of us are to blame, yet none of us are exempt,” Jennifer Bohn addressed implicit biases through the use of storytelling and riddles. Some examples included the discrimination Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) patients experience when navigating through the healthcare system, as these patients are often stigmatized by healthcare professionals. 

Her use of stories and riddles fostered an atmosphere of curiosity and a willingness to understand what shapes our worldview. We are not to be blamed for the way we are programmed to see the world, yet we are not exempt from unlearning our implicit biases and growing to become compassionate. Boh’s talk encouraged audience members to wonder what role implicit bias played in their day-to-day life and within their social interactions.  

Munib Ali utilized analogies and examples to highlight the innovation humanity has achieved, while accentuating how society is not actively changing its course to better itself. In a world of “perpetuating paradoxes,” Ali stated that even with advanced understanding of nutrition and diet, there is a global obesity epidemic. The irony of the advancement of research and lack of practice connects with Ali’s observation of the lack of humanity. 

Ali highlighted that the three necessary ingredients to maintaining humanity are justice, kindness and kinship — without them, we are missing what unites us biologically, according to Ali.  

“We don’t need to be superhumans, we just need to be more human,” he said. 

A researcher herself, Arzina Jaffer connects her personal experience with bioinformatics research with the idea that humans must keep up with innovation. 

“It is critical more than ever for us to be looking ahead to understand how [we] will survive in a continuously evolving world of supercomputing, genetic editing and neurotechnological brain advancements,” said Jaffer. 

Jaffer shared that entering research in the bioinformatics field was a huge step out of her comfort zone and that to keep up with innovation, we must be willing to adapt. She further concludes that we should not fear change, but rather embrace it.

Juliana Svishchuk began her talk by asking the audience what they picture when they hear the word artist. She listed some classic examples like a painter or a musician and then asked if anyone imagined a little boy in goggles working in a lab?

Most people do not consider scientists to be artists too, so, the focus of her talk was to convince the audience of the importance of being interdisciplinary in science. 

Throughout her talk, Svishchuk highlighted the similarities that exist between scientists and artists, and how intertwining these two disciplines will allow for innovation. 

“Creativity bridges the gap between art and science, allowing us to think outside the box,” she said. 

Svishchuk argued that creativity within science and creativity within art, with both their similarities and differences alike, will allow for stronger communication and progress by combining these two fields.

The fear of missing out or “F.O.M.O.” can be a big distractor, causing many students to sign up for too many extracurricular activities and oftentimes, result in extreme burnout. Hailey Lu shared her former F.O.M.O. and how it distracted her from finding her passion. 

“Hard work and results don’t exist as a simple one-to-one ratio,” Lu said. “Passion, time and energy play a huge role as well.” 

Lu’s recommendation is to find your passion and then dedicate your time and energy to it. While not getting preoccupied with the number of extra-curricular activities we have, but rather focusing on the quality of effort we’re putting into them.

Through the metaphor of a car, Lu proposes that we focus on driving in our lane while simultaneously being “mindful of potholes and barriers along the way,” which can oftentimes be F.O.M.O. Through passion, one can prioritize and work towards their niche.

Shaaden Salem began her talk by explaining that language is shaped by culture and introduced how the way we see the world shapes how we understand the language we use. Salem explored her word “love,” as if she were to climb a terrain. As she continues to climb and explore this terrain, she realized the map she created of the terrain is shaped by the lens she uses to see the world. Through various types of love like platonic, romantic or self-love, Salem demonstrates that exploring our language and our words is not as simple as one would think. 

After the TEDxYouth@VictoriaPark committee stated their closing remarks, Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote was used to tie the event together — “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”  

For more information about future TEDxYouth@VictoriaPark events and speaker opportunities, check out their website.

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