These are notes from TEDxMelbourne #3 that I attended yesterday. I missed the beginning and the end, but I managed to catch 1 video and 2 live speakers – so this time round the notes may not be as rich as the last one (Notes from TEDxMelbourne #2), but better than nothing I suppose.
Note: by the way, I have finally decided to re-enable comments (its still moderated though, I hope you understand, I hate spams). Therefore discussion, comments, opinions, braindumps and what-have-yous are very much welcomed. Use the link on the right where it says… DISCUSS. Cheers!
I came in late, and I left early – but based on the observation from the recurring themes in TEDxMelbourne #3, these are the points I take home with me:
- Somewhere inside our mind, there exist a model that defines Right and Wrong.
- Please, don’t try to retrofit the world into this model, because in a lot of cases, it just won’t fit.
Instead, see the world as is – when you do, the path forward will become quite obvious.
- The obvious way forward is obtained through listening and understanding. This is especially true for mentors and teachers, but also applies in other profession in life, such as consulting.
- When you truly understand – through and through – the people you are dealing with, you will adapt your interaction naturally to each select individual. You may even do this unconsciously . So first: seek to understand the people or problem you are dealing with.
- Conflicts breeds inconsistency, inconsistency breeds complexity, complexity breeds error, error breeds damage and suffering.
- Small errors when accumulated becomes huge errors. Never underestimate.
- Choosing the perfect standard is secondary to adopting one. Because once a universal standard is adopted across the board, even if it’s not perfect it can always be improved in a consistent manner. If you enter from the angle of winning over the argument of ‘the perfect standard’ – you will fall into very trap of ‘Right vs Wrong’. This breeds conflicts, the very thing that can prevent a universal standard from being adopted easily.
- Universal standards can only work when individuals / entities are willing to let go of their own ego to embrace the standard for the greater good.
This requires an open mind, an open heart.
- The challenge is then – how to open a closed mind? The answer is again through understanding. Deal with the person by first understanding his character, his point of view, and where he’s coming from. When you have understood a problem through and through, the way forward will be obvious. You do not have to seek it, it will reveal itself to you.
- The most precious knowledge to obtain is to know that there is so much more to learn – to learn and acquire the inquiring mind. How can we educate this to our younger generation?
Because for a person who have attained this mind, every waking moment is educational. And every educational moment is enriching, rewarding, and fun.
11:00am Temple Grandin, The world needs All kind of minds
- The World Needs All Kind of Minds // TED Video // Temple Grandin
- This is a very interesting talk that gives us insight into how the specialist and visual minds work.
- Temple starts by elaborating the way her mind works (“like Google for pictures”) as she believed the way her mind works is quite different from the mind of average people.
(pls note that I use the word ‘average’ in statistical context) – In doing so, she highlights the fact that there are many different kind of minds out there, and we ought to seek to understand them.
- Temple categorized (boxes) the different kind of minds into three types:
1) Visual thinkers – where animals apparently also falls into this category
2) Pattern thinkers – music, maths, programmers usually falls into this category
3) Verbal Thinkers – very fact oriented, the walking dictionaries.
- Temple also highlighted the lack of support in education for these many different minds. This is due to the fact that the education system is overly generalized and overly rigid. They did not account for the fact that the system may not apply to everyone.
Comments & notes:
- Temple puts forward the idea that we need to embrace all these different mind, because the world needs these unique people.
- Personally, I think that it’s not that the world needs them as such. They are part of the world. If we don’t seek to understand them, and create systems based on our bent perspective, then we have created a world that makes it really difficult for these people to thrive and unleash their full potential.
- Therefore we have to embrace the difference. Know and acknowledge that not everyone sees the world as we see it, not everyone like what we like, and we ought to respect the minds of others as we do ours.
- Buddhism states that everything in this world is different to everything else (unique), that everything in this world is connected to everything else, and that nothing is permanent. Therefore do not cling to anything – and this includes your judgement and point of view.
- Special kids are having problems in schools because the education system attempts to retrofit the world into their own model of right and wrong. The fact is, the world is different, and attempting to do so will only result in giving these kids that can’t be retrofitted into this model, a lot more unnecessary challenges.
- In my experience, the right guidance / teaching to a student can only be given when the teacher have fully understood the nature, character and circumstances a student is in. Obviously, this differs from student to student and so the teacher need to be wise and compassionate enough to know what guidance to give to each student, so that they may have the best learning experience possible.
- Understanding can only be achieved through compassion. This is why the first thing that a teacher or mentor needs is not academic excellence, but passion. This is highlighted in an answer from the second live speaker (Mauricio Buchler) later in the day. Temple highlighted the importance of her science teacher, who sparked her interest in science by putting her into a room full of optical illusion. Obviously her science teacher understood exactly how her mind works and that this would intrigued her.
- The model of varying minds presented by Temple is good (visual, pattern, verbal thinker) – but tempting as it may be I would not recommend putting people into categories and boxes, but instead be open about it – see the problem or the people as is and the best way forward will become obvious.
- Try to see the world with the perceiving eye, not with your judgmental eye. To judge is to presume right and wrong, and to prescribe a remedy before the root cause of the issue is diagnosed through and through. To perceive is to not know the solution [humility and openess], but to first look at the issue at hand, and have the right remedy to reveal itself to you during the diagnosis process.
- To embrace the fact that the world is full of people who work, think and live differently is indeed one substantial victory. However, if we keep on living and see the world through our judging eyes (i.e. to live with prejudice) then we would have undone the very victory we have just gained.
12:00am Pat Naughtin, Metrication Matters
- Saving Millions through Metrication // TEDxMelbourne video [warning: vid quality is poor] // Pat Naughtin
- Note: Pat’s talk doesn’t start until about 5 minute so if you do wish to watch the video (the video quality is poor, but the audio is not bad) you can jump to at about minute 4:40 right away.
- Pat begins by the origin of the metric system (John Wilkins, the Universal Measure) – which is is the origin of the decimal metric system that is the defacto standard today.
- The overlooked importance of the whole numbers – a lot of errors happens because of inaccuracy. Decimal conversion between various measurement units as well as between various measuring system (pounds vs kilograms). This inaccuracy through decimal and fraction injected through unit and system conversion is also true in a lot of medical reports and pathology reports – leads to about 98000 deaths in United States per year. Most are because of medication error.
- Pat then highlighted the successful system used by the Australian government in the 70s that adopted metric system in full and uses millimeters and meters. Specifically centimeter will not be used in building constructions to eliminate decimal points in most cases.
- These ‘small errors’ introduced during conversion may seem insignificant, but Pat further explained the cost such an error could cause through the example of NASA’s metric policy (“go metric, if you feels like it”) – inconsistencies leads to the failed shuttle launch due to the varying metrication system used between different teams that works in the same project. $327 million loss.
- The criteria that he puts forward for choosing the good measurement system is as follow:
Simple, Honest, Open, and Global [metric] – as opposed to Complex, Obscure, Closed, and Territorial [e.g. US pounds and inches]
Comments & Notes:
- Personally I feel that the talk is coarse and the delivery of the message and punchline is not done strongly enough. That is, summarizing Pat’s talk is much tougher than summarizing Temple’s talk – because I have to rewatch the whole vid again to extract the points. So if you’re watching please keep in mind and be patient. IMO if the points learned here are quite significant.
- What is the real problem here? Metric vs Non-Metric, or the fact that we don’t have a measurement system that is used across the board and adopted universally?
I think John Wilkins named this topic right, Universal Measurement, as opposed to ‘metric system’. He puts the word ‘Universal’ there to highlight the importance of standardizing the system and having it adopted across the board.
- I reckon, metrication matters. But universal metrication matters more.
(btw, if Pat changes his service name from Metrication Matters to Universal Metrication Matters, his company logo would’ve changed to uMM… )
- In fact, I would go as far as saying that it doesn’t matter which system we pick to begin with. Having a standard that is adopted globally is the difficult bit. Because it needs adoption policy, regulation, bodies that watches over this standard and refines it over time, and so on. Once it is universally adopted, it can always be improved over time. As long as everyone is on the same page, talks the same language – we can all improve as one.
- But therein lies the problem: The biggest stumbling block of the universal adoption of the metric system is a non-technical one. I think Pat’s talk have given enough evidence to ditch non-metric system, and yet NASA still has that policy of “metric, or non-metric – your pick”. The challenge is more human in nature: a huge ego, and a closed mind.
- For an entity to adopt a global standard means it have to let go of his own territorial standard. This requires one to transcends one’s own ego to accept a system that works for the greater good. Certainly, if this fallacy is not present in the first place, we wont have this double-standard issue in the first place.
- To move forward in this area, the key is in being able to surpass this human problem, and therein lies the real question: How to open a closed mind? How can we surpass ego?
- Metrication Matters is Pat’s campaign on further universalizing the metric system through the metrication process. However, since the problem is not strictly technical, a technical approach of proving that the metric system is better than non-metric system just won’t cut it. Human problem requires a human approach to solve it.
- I believe that the answer to this is linked to the lessons learned from Temple’s talk: metrication needs to be won over project by project, people by people, persuasion by persuasion.
Seek to understand the point of view, minds, and circumstances of the people you are dealing with and the way to put forward metrication will become obvious.
- Certainly, being hard-headed about anything (metrication included) will only strengthen arguments and conflicts, because the proponents of metric system clings to their belief as much as their alternative counterpart does. The two lived in their own boxes – to solve this smoothly and effectively one must transcends those boxes.
13:57.5pm Mauricio Buchler, Interactive Online Education
- On Education // TEDxMelbourne live video [warning:vid quality is poor] // Mauricio Buchler
- Education is not merely transmission of knowledge. Education is the effort to make the receiving party understand the knowledge being transmitted.
- To test whether education is successful or not, is to test and see if the receiving party can recycle and reuse the knowledge in various other context.
- Online education through the internet only provides an alternative means of transmitting knowledge – “using the internet to replicate the system that is not communicative to start with” Mauricio points that the internet can be used to deliver an alternative means of education. To do more than “transfer a page from a book to a screen”.
- Mauricio’s attempt at this, which is also an example of how this may work, is LIVE (Learning In Virtual Environment) – a game-like application that is fun, but also educational in nature.
- He also highlighted the fundamental issue in educational system which resonates with the concern raised by Temple Grandin: that it is over-generalized, overly rigid, and does not account for the varying needs of student. Also the profession of teaching seems to be looked down upon “those who can’t do – teach” which breeds a system that ends up with employing people who are not really passionate about teaching.
- After the talk a Tedster asks him the following question: “If there is one thing you can change in the educational system, what would be it?”
To which he replied: “I would change the selection criteria for teachers – the most important criteria is passion, even academia competence is still secondary to this”
Comments & Notes:
- I think the talk is very educational, and fun. It probably reflects his whole approach in this, and is it just me, or does this guy looked (and talks) like a long-haired educational Jason Mraz without a hat and guitar?
- Personally alternative means of education takes more than just informative games. I don’t think fun is derived directly from the experience of digesting the knowledge – it may be fun, but it is shallow and not lasting.
- The real fun begins when a student learns and understands that what he learns can be applied in real life. As such, he sees a direct correlation from learning and value-add in real life. That what he is digesting is more than just theory. Making this connection is a very important motivational factor. Besides, what’s the point of sitting through all of that classes and lectures, if you don’t know what’s it for?
- This connection is what enlightens student. And to achieve this, a lot of work, a lot of understanding, patience, passion, and wisdom is required from the teacher.
- Perhaps this quote from Bruce Lee says this best on the topic of “Adapting to each student”:
I believe in having a few pupils at one time as it requires a constant alert observation of each individual in order to establish a direct relationship. A good teacher can never be fixed in a routine… each moment requires a sensitive mind that is constantly changing and constantly adapting.
A teacher must never impose this student to fit his favourite pattern; a good teacher functions as a pointer, exposing his student’s vulnerability (and) causing him to explore both internally and finally integrating himself with his being. Martial art [education,knowledge…] should not be passed out indiscriminately.
– Bruce Lee, On Adapting to each student. [reference]
- To me, if there is one thing that is precious about education is that I have acquired an inquiring mind. A mind that converts every waking moment into moments of learning. How can we inject this into the minds of students? how can we transmit this?
Thus conclude my notes for TEDxMelbourne. If you get to this point, I hope you enjoyed this, and thanks for reading!