TEDxCMU: Ripple Effect

This past Saturday, TEDxCMU took place in the Cohon University Center. This year’s theme was Ripple Effect, inspired by Apple CEO Tim Cook’s words, “you want to be the pebble in the pond that creates the ripple for change.” From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the seven speakers, 10 TED talks, performances, and Innovation Expo collectively interpreted the theme in diverse ways, allowing the audiences to each take away their unique piece of the ripple to be part of its effect.

The speakers’ topics varied from post-prison rehabilitation to critical design for the minority. Through an app developed specifically for this year’s TEDxCMU, audiences were able to directly post questions to the speaker and receive personalized answers. I posted questions to two speakers and received my answers before the end of the event. Their responses not only helped me umderstand, but also invited me to be part of the event through this interactive experience and be part of the ripple, responsible for reflecting and seeking ways to change the future.

My favorite talk was “Pushing for Consent Education” delivered by Micah Rabin, a senior undergraduate student majoring in Decision Science and International Relations and Politics. Rabin started her talk by breaking our stereotypical association between “consent” and “sex.” She made a clear point that “consent” should be associated with “respect.” Its scope goes far beyond sex or romantic relationships because mutual respect and consent should be applied to all aspects of life. After breaking the taboo around the definition of “consent,” Rabin proposed that consent education should be integrated into early-stage education and even kindergarten curricula. “Kids should grow up with these core values,” she explained, arguing values such as mutual respect, mutual appreciation, and many more are derived from the fundamental comprehension of the concept of mutual consent.

When confronting the issue of sexual harassment, we often argue that instead of teaching our girls how to protect themselves, we should teach our boys how to respect women. Although breaking the status quo is always easier said than done, Rabin’s proposal of regarding consent as a core value in order to let kids understand their autonomy over their own bodies could change the mindset of the next generation. They would start with rejecting their aunts’ request of kissing their cheeks as six-year-olds, then after they grow up, respecting the line drawn by mutual consent would be instinctual.

Another interesting aspect of this year’s TEDxCMU was that it presented talks with core beliefs almost conflicting with each other. Rana Sen gave a talk titled “How Smart Cities are Technology for the People, by the People,” in which he focused on explaining the positive impact of innovation and cutting-edge technology on the lives of urbanized residences. Even considering the practical accessibility of a technological solution, we can easily recognize that not everyone in the city population would be able to receive its benefit; Sen chose to focus on the influence it would bring to the fortunate group who would be able to attain access.

However, a few talks afterward, Deepa Butoliya delivered the talk “Design Through the Lens of Jugaad.” Jugaad is a Hindi word that means quick-fix, which she closely associated with the impoverished people’s struggle to get by. She stated that classic design would never target the people with severely limited resources, so the people themselves utilized the concept of jugaad to find cheap and quick-fixes for their problems. Butoliya then proposed that designers should “design through the lens of jugaad,” creating less market-oriented products, but real ones that present solutions for problems of those in need. If we place Sen and Butoliya on a spectrum, they would definitely be standing at the opposite ends — Sen pushing the frontend, Butoliya pulling the backend. Although contrasting, both presented eye-opening ways to push the society forward, and both were “ideas worth sharing.”

Leaving the event, I wonder how many people would take away a piece of it, internalizing at least one idea. After years, maybe one of these people would reference back to this day, to this event and say, “That was where I got my inspiration.”

And the ripple continues on.