Last Saturday, June 13th, granted us not only sunny weather but also an incredible amount of inspiration. TEDxGhent’s fifth edition offered TEDx talks and spices which took us from hidden mysteries of Ghent to those of Central Africa, from discovering the strengths and weaknesses of the human body to showing us creative approaches to using technology and making this world a better place. The TEDxGhent journey was moderated by the unmissable humour of our host Lieven Scheire.
The celebration took off with the first speaker jumping onto the TEDxGhent stage – literally! Sebastien Foucan, the founder of Freerunning, taught us that overcoming boundaries necessarily involves looking at the foundation, and not only at the top of the iceberg – and once you do so, anything is possible. Next up was the artificial intelligence enthusiast Francesca Rossi, convincing us that humans and machines are complementary. Once we create morally and ethically responsible machines, humans will have more time to think about ourselves and discover what we are and what we can do as humans. Geert Heyneman brought us closer to the secrets that lie just around the corner. Producing unique gin made out of plants found in our city of Ghent, he encouraged us to have a sip or two if we want to live longer. Another solution to healthier life was offered by Erik Rietveld who challenged us to imagine a world without chairs. What would the world look like? Well, it would be much more beneficial than a world with chairs. Erik presented his vision of an innovative working place encompassing a range of elements allowing us to accomplish computer work in positions that don’t require sitting.
Tine Hens insisted that our current economic system doesn’t need to remain as it is. We should and can rehumanize it by starting with small actions performed by all of us. Before heading off to a fun, spiced-up lunch break, Ghent’s city poet David Troch showed us the benefits of poetry, encouraging us to read poetry instead of visiting shrinks.
After an exciting lunch break consisting of a laughing session, lockpicking workshop, a botanical walking tour, forklift simulator and many other amazing challenges, the fun continued. The music of Trashbeatz lifted the audience up while inspiring them to participate in the creative act of music, while simultaneously saving the world from huge amounts of trash. Leo Hollis taught us about the importance of understanding urban places as places for people, places where people meet, saying ‘If the city is not for everybody, then it is not good at all’. Michaël Van Damme gave us a meta-talk, a talk about talks, sharing the secrets of good public communication. Creativity and innovation do not have to be kept in universities’ basements if scientists learn a few management guru tricks and entertain their audiences. Jenga robot creator Lieven Standaert showed us the importance of encouraging kids to do what may seem impossible to us and thus allow for progress to happen. Matthias Stevens showed an example of making something that seems unlikely to happen as part of people’s everyday lives. By developing a mobile application he’s helping to empower local communities in Congo to protect their natural resources. Ellen de Bruin enlightened us about something rather different – the wickedness of business meetings. She made us think about the inappropriateness of such meetings and encouraged us to rethink it. Before the afternoon break in the sun, Filip Van Den Abeele discussed the state of the art of the Earth’s energy resources and offered alternatives for a sustainable future.
Following some chilling in the warm afternoon sun, João Pedro de Magalhães wondered whether we were close to discovering the potion for immortality. There are already genes identified that extend the lifespan of worms tenfold, and scientists are trying to find similar genes for humans, so that we could manipulate the biological machinery of aging. Bart Van der Roost provided us with an innovative talk on art and entrepreneurship, and explained what he meant by calling Rubens an entrepreneur, or should we say artrepreneur? He gave us an interesting insight into how art, music and entrepreneurship are all connected. Katrien Herdewyn merges extravagant shoes and modern technology, using specific materials and latest technologies that assure the shoes are water-repellent and self-cleaning. Laurine Burdorf explained how recently discovered cable bacteria could provide the world with a huge amount of electricity, although not enough to prevent future power blackouts. Next up was Pieter Bonte, who gave us quite a controversial talk on how legalizing doping could enhance equality in sports. Fighting the common perception that doping is wrong, he challenged the audience with questions and arguments that were food for thought during the breaks. Our final speaker was Jean-Luc Doumont. He challenged every single thing we believe we have to do. Do we have to do it? Does it have to be now? In the fast paced world of today, we all want to be reachable and find it normal to be living in an online world and constantly multitasking, worrying over so many things out of our control.
After all these inspiring talks, it was time for drinks and networking! The TEDxGhent team would like to thank all attendees, speakers, spices and the crew for making this event what it was – a day full of fun, inspiration and of course celebration! See you again next year!