Fresh! That was the theme of TEDxHongKong's latest talk, which was held at Hong Kong Science Park last month. The event featured speakers with fresh ideas and also a simulcast of TEDGlobal 2014 on the same theme. Young Post's junior reporters were invited to the talk, and this is what they thought:
Don't be afraid of failure
Gregory Slayton spoke with all the eloquence and wisdom you'd expect from the founder and CEO of a venture capital firm, a senior United States diplomat, an Ivy League professor, and best-selling author.
His talk emphasised the idea that failure is essential to achieving success, and that the two things go hand in hand. To illustrate this, he quoted Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist: "The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times, and get up eight."
"The most important thing is to not to be afraid of failure. Get ready for it and don't let failure define you," he explained. "Instead, use it as an opportunity to get better, not bitter."
He clearly believes in this way of life, and explained his methods for success through a metaphor about mountain climbing. "You need the right map, you need the right allies, and you need the right equipment. A map is a noble vision. The allies are those with whom you choose to spend your life. The equipment is up to you, and some people's sharpest axe is their mind. What's yours?"
The moment that stuck most in my mind was his ending. He quoted one of Winston Churchill's lesser-known speeches, comprising exactly six words: "Never surrender. Never surrender. Never surrender!"
Improving thanks to criticism
Imagine wearing a dark green jumpsuit, carrying heavy weapons, and getting scolded by scary military officials every single day. This is life for 23-year-old Ivy League-graduate, Alessandra Slayton.
Slayton shared her experiences of serving in the US army, where she is in charge of 53 soldiers and US$10 million of equipment.
It's pretty rare for a woman to hold such an authoritative position in the military, but Slayton decided to take on the challenge to be a role model and show everyone that women can be tough, too.
"Hillary Clinton was bombarded at presidential campaigns for her lack of toughness," said Slayton. "So I wanted to show the world that women can be tough, so that's why I decided to join the military."
She admits that the army can be tough. She broke down in tears a few times because of rude remarks by her comrades. "As part of the military, soldiers are not afraid to criticise me for tiny mistakes, and I used to cry about it sometimes," said Slayton. "It's not easy to hear such comments from people, especially those you care about and are responsible for."
Still, Slayton has learned to stay strong and is beginning to see the criticism as an opportunity for improvement. "One only gains strength by learning from experiences in the past, and I've learned to take criticism as a gift to improve in my life," she says.
Using tech to change the world
"Anyone can be a changemaker," said Rodrigo Baggio. "Technology can accelerate that." Baggio is the founder of the Centre of Digital Inclusion (CDI), a nonprofit organisation that promotes and uses technology to solve social problems and encourage entrepreneurship.
In 1993, when Baggio was just 23 years old, he was an executive at a successful technology company. "But then I made a decision to change my life," he said. "I had a dream of younger people using technology to understand themselves and their communities."
After that, Baggio founded CDI, the first organisation of its kind. He set up CDI Community Centres all around Brazil, his home country, and the rest of the world.
Currently, there are 715 schools attended by 7.5 million people in 10 countries.
Most of the centres are located in low-income areas, prisons, native communities, hospitals and psychiatric clinics, as the schools aim to improve the lives of their students.
For example, 10 children from a slum in Rio de Janeiro went to a CDI centre to address the issue of rats in their community. Thanks to online research, they found that the rat problem was caused by people piling their trash in the streets. Using programs like Text Editor and PowerPoint, the children made flyers and presentations to raise awareness of the garbage problem. Within four months, the residents were disposing their rubbish safely, and fewer rats were seen, Baggio said.
Baggio then moved on to talk about "e-topia".
"Technology can transform lives," insisted Baggio. "Society can have more freedom and solidarity." He asked everybody to become changemakers in their own societies, ultimately reaching the e-topia where technology had broken down social walls and people were actively solving problems in their communities. In conclusion, Baggio said: "Let us start, right now, this E-topia Revolution!"
Putting mind over matter
Miguel Nicolelis is a renowned Brazilian neuroscientist and leader of the Walk Again Project, a research programme that helps paralysed patients regain their mobility.
He is well-known for his work on brain-machine interfaces - digital platforms that allow the brain to communicate with external devices such as computer programs or robots.
In his talk, he described the development process of his Exoskeleton system. The suit became famous when it helped a paralysed football player deliver the opening kick of this year's World Cup.
The Exoskeleton suit relies on a simple sequence of actions. First, as the user imagines the outcome, sensors attached to the machine turn brain activity into a series of electrical signals for the Exoskeleton to process.
After a quick confirmation with the brain, the Exoskeleton completes the movement and provides sensory feedback for the user. The process is very quick, with each movement taking less than three seconds to complete.
Nicolelis recalls the paralysed player's reaction after the "revolutionary kick". "He looked at me and said, 'I really felt it'. He could feel the ball against his feet. Imagine, after all those years of not being able to feel anything!"
And what do future brain-machine interfaces look like? Currently in the works is the "brain-to-brain" interface, which involves the use of two brains to achieve a certain goal, like guiding a robotic arm.
Nicolelis admits that the practical applications of such interfaces are still uncertain.
"We have no idea. We are scientists. We are paid to be children," he says with a smile. Regardless, his work is changing lives. Just think about it.
The next TEDxHongKong event is on November 15, 10am to 4pm, at Hong Kong Science Park. The theme will be "Greeen" (yes, three "e"s), and speakers include Michael Trautmann (founder of award-wining advertising agency Thjnk), comedian Paul Ogata, and the King's Harmonica Trio. They'll be talking about leadership, FinTech, and smart cities. For more information, go to tedxhongkong.org