TEDxPSU 2017 Takeaways

Photo by Maria Crisafulli

TEDxPSU returned to University Park on Sunday with a wide range of speakers and videos. This year’s annual TEDxPSU conference, which is a student-run independently organized TED event, featured 11 speakers from all over the world, each with a powerful message vastly different from the last. Here is a taste of the most important takeaways from TEDxPSU 2017, according to Valley.

New Solutions to Old Problems Breed New Problems

Timothy Simpson taught us that new solutions to old problems breed new problems. In his talk, Timothy ran the audience through the process of 3D printing, which has really taken off in the last few decades. 3D printing has allowed us to do things we’ve never been able to do before. However, there are a few problems with this procedure that none of us anticipated. One being the affect that the extreme efficiency is devastating supply chain. Because companies are now able to send a file from the computer to the machine without outsourcing to several other companies, those other companies are slowly losing purpose. This brings up our other problem, which is because 3D printing uses files on a computer, the number of cyber-attacks has grown exponentially, with almost 100 on manufacturing companies in 2015 alone.

There is No Such Thing as a Blanket Solution

Claudia Williams taught us that there is no such thing as a blanket solution. Williams, who founded The Human Zone, found herself in a job environment that just wasn’t doing anything for her anymore. However, she explained that one common solution to making your professional environment enjoyable is to treat others the way you would want to be treated. This does nothing but breed contempt.

“Treat others the way they want to be treated because we are all different,” says Williams.

Being an Outsider Can Often Times Give You the Upper Hand

Glenn Ruse Jr. taught us that being an outsider can often times give you the upper hand. Ruse is a classicist and Roman historian who spoke about the relationship between modern and Roman politics. Specifically, he spoke about Marcus Tullius Cicero, a Roman philosopher who took politics by storm in 63 BC. Though he was only in office for one year, Cicero used unconventional outsider methods to wiggle his way into a political authority position, much like our 45th POTUS.

Conflict Isn’t Always Bad While Compromise and Collaborations Aren’t Always Good

Jonathan Marks taught us that conflict isn’t always bad while compromise and collaboration aren’t always good. Specifically, Marks, who teaches bioethics at Penn State, spoke on how this concept relates to public health.

“We cannot know if conflict is bad unless we know who is fighting, why they are fighting, and how they are fighting. And compromises can be thoroughly rotten if they harm people that are not at the table: people who are vulnerable, disempowered, people who we have an obligation to protect,” says Marks.

 What his talk boiled down to was that sometimes the engagement of conflict is necessary in order for people— and governments— to be held accountable.

Mental Illness Doesn’t Make You a Monster

Cecilia McGough taught us that mental illness doesn’t make you a monster. McGough is a sophomore astronomy student at Penn State and, at first glance— and every glance after— she looks like your regular old college student. She radiates curiosity and exhilaration. However, her inward self is fighting a constant battle that can rarely be seen from the surface: a battle against schizophrenia. It took her many years to come out publicly about her illness, but in the wake of this, she has not only been able to embrace her diagnosis but also set in motion the opportunity for others to as well with the foundation of her non-profit organization, Students With Schizophrenia.

Perfection is Objective

Bella Glanville taught us that perfection is objective. Glanville said, on average, it takes more time for magazine curators to photoshop photos of models than it takes for a cartoonist to generate a full-color animated character. This gross misconstruction of the female body projects the illusion that women are not perfect, or aesthetically pleasing, until they look the way the models do. The international model went on to explain that self-love and acceptance of your flaws and the flaws in others are the only ways to combat this delusion: “Beauty is not something that you are; it’s something that you feel and radiate outward.”

Our Relationships With Objects Say A Lot About Our Relationships With People

Bruno Descaves that our relationships with objects say a lot about our relationships with people. Descaves, who has a bachelor’s degree in physics as well as a masters in performing arts, brought along several guests with him to the TEDxPSU stage. However, these guests lacked a heartbeat but had a lot to say about the way we manipulate the things and people around us. In demonstrating the fluidity of puppeteering, Descaves talked about how we impose our wishes on objects, pushing them to do what we want. He believes this can affect the way we push the people in our lives to do what we want instead of having a healthy balance of push and pull.

Listening Can Be More Constructive Than Speaking

Matt Stumpf taught us that listening can be more constructive than speaking. Stumpf, conversationalist and minister, took the stage with what seemed like a technical disruption blaring from the speakers behind him. However, Stumpf began his speech explaining that this disruption was not only intentional but that it had a name. White noise is the presence of many different frequencies at once all with equal intensities. At first, this seemed irrelevant until Stumpf delved into the presence of what he refers to as “societal white noise” in our everyday lives. We are all so busy trying to get a word in every conversation, on every social media platform, and in every other opportunity we detect that we have all tuned each other out with this intense societal white noise.

Our Environment is Dying Because of Us

Peter Buckland taught us that our environment is dying because of us and we need to do something about it. What seemed like a stretch between two seemingly irrelevant topics blossomed into a dense dialogue about sustainability and how there are many more voices to be heard on the topic than just those you hear in the media. Buckland, who composes thrasher music, works as the Academic Programs Fellow at Penn State’s Sustainability Institute. In this role, he acts as a voice for our crippling environment, demanding justice and equality for our natural world with the same verbosity as the thrasher bands he has loved since childhood.

Living the Reality Will Teach You More Than Studying in School

Theresa Vescio taught us that living the reality of a situation will teach you much more than studying it in school. Vescio, who is a professor of psychology and women’s gender and sexuality studies, began her talk with a personal anecdote.

“I came out late in life and on the doorsteps of 40, I was embracing the fact that I was a lesbian woman learning how people would interact with me as a function of that identity,” says Vescio.

In her transition from straight to gay, she became aware of many more problems in the realm of sexism and heterosexism than she ever learned in school. In the process of learning that “being a dyke” doesn’t mean you’re broken, she realized just how quickly the combination of sexism and heterosexism can turn to anger; anger she had never seen this anger when she was a straight woman. In all of her experience and knowledge, she concludes that this is because no matter how much one can learn about discrimination, for one reason or another, privilege still creates blind spots.

Taking Down Police Brutality Begins With Unification

Brian Davis taught us that taking down police brutality begins with unification. Davis, an undergraduate at Penn State, utilized his time on the TEDxPSU stage to recall his adolescent experiences of contemporary police brutality. Davis believes that instead of criminalizing one party of police brutality or the other, we need to come together as a community.

“We can’t just expect lions to go to the North Pole and police the polar bears when they don’t know anything about their environment,” he says. “Polar bears can teach the lions how to adapt to their environment.”

While the speakers were the backbone of the conference, the audience also got to enjoy a short performance from the Penn State Thespians as well as a spoken word poetry reading from Penn State WORDS member, Davon Clark.

In case you couldn’t make it to TEDxPSU 2017, you can watch the whole thing from start to finish here