Rewire your creativity

Compiled by John Kang

'Greeen' - this was the theme for TEDxHongKong2014 where speakers talked about technology and leadership at Hong Kong Science Park back in November. Young Post's junior reporters were invited to the TEDx, and here are some of their favourite talks ...

Compiled by John Kang |

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Steve Youngwood thinks we need to rewire ourselves.

Think in terms of technology

"The adults will have to rewire themselves because they are the guiders of children and the guiders of the institutions," said Steve Youngwood.

Youngwood was previously the executive vice-president and general manager of digital media and entertainment products at Nickelodeon. He recently joined the board of directors at LeapFrog Enterprises and acts as an adviser for several start-up companies. 

The main point of Youngwood's talk was to highlight how important it is for adults to accept technology. Technology can extend the potential of children in future generations. To support his view, Youngwood described a personal story about a car accident in which he was involved. The accident left him suffering from central cord syndrome, meaning he lost power and sensation in his arms and hands.

Luckily, he recovered, but his nerves rewired themselves in a different way than before. Youngwood said that if he uses his left hand to pick up something cold, he thinks it is boiling. It was hard for him to accept this, but his doctor told him to get used to this "new norm". 

"It got me thinking about that need to embrace the norms and accept them and hopefully build off them, because otherwise you really would be paralysed," said Youngwood. 

He believes that adults needed to rewire themselves and "get used to the new norm", which is technology. "One of the norms of the new norm is that things will rapidly, rapidly change ... and it's in this world that kids grow up with more possibilities, more informed, more connected, more open and perhaps smarter than any other generation." 

By incorporating a personal experience into his presentation, Youngwood helped us realise how important technology can be and how we must embrace it.

Shannon Cho

Erwin McManus says we need to reclaim our creativity. Photo: TEDxHongKong

Materialising the invisible

When Erwin McManus' name flashed on the screen with the name of his church underneath it, few expected him to talk about human imagination. And when he stood up and called himself "socially intrepid", people subconsciously slouched back into their seats, expecting another boring speaker with a serious case of anxiety. 

He first recounted an encounter with Jane Goodall at a TED conference, where she talked avidly about chimpanzees. After meeting other people at conferences who seemed to share a common love for animals, he joked: "I had to find an animal to talk about, too. So I decided to talk about humans, as I've been one my entire life."

That led to the heart of his talk: "What makes us uniquely human?" According to McManus, the answer is that "we materialise the invisible". 

He related this to human creativity by saying, "if we create, we have to imagine, and if we have to imagine, we have to deal with the invisible". Humans create futures, and that is different to any other animal in the world - we conceptualise then we produce products of such creativity.

The more McManus spoke, the more the audience was captivated by his passion and ideas. At one point, he grew frustrated by how people often distinguish artists and creative-minded people, finding them a minority compared to "the rest of us" - those that "do not possess the ability of materialising the invisible". He shouted: "We're all part of a system ... I'm done! I'll no longer be the hunted ... I'll be the hunter!"

But amid the dramatics and humour of his speech, McManus' message was clear and worth pursuing - we have to reclaim our creative essences that we have lost. Ultimately, "We can hide inside our imagination ... [But] the world is begging to be created by the person who is brave enough to do it himself".

Cynthia Huang

Mike Pellegrino has simple but relevant solutions. Photo: TEDxHongKong

Small changes can have a big effect

Mike Pellegrino has his own intellectual property (IP) evaluation firm. But it's in his understanding of and empathising with humans that his perceptiveness shines through. His way of developing new methods and evaluation strategies has not only effectively quantified everything "from chopsticks to jet fuel", but also slowed down mankind's carbon footprint. 

How do his strategies do this? Simple. Pellegrino came up with five criteria that would determine how successful a green idea would be and, perhaps more interestingly, why certain green ideas don't work. 

The five criteria he spoke about were: the validity of the idea defeating the problem; having the lowest relative cost when compared to other alternatives; societal acceptance; not requiring government intervention; and not bringing about significant changes in human behaviour. 

Pellegrino then went on to expose some popular (and some not-so-popular) green ideas, starting with a classic: solar power. 

"Solar power just doesn't work. It doesn't really defeat any problem, and as for alternatives, people can have lots of power on the cheap so why should they pay for solar panels?" asked Pellegrino. "The cost is ridiculous," he said. "It can be up to US$30,000, and in a country where the annual median wage is touching US$60,000, people aren't going to want to waste half a year's income on solar panels. They're not accessible, they're not accepted. These panels require everything from licensing to quality control, so they require gargantuan efforts from both the government and humans," he explained.

Presenting another idea, Pellegrino explained why it would work. The idea in question was living closer to the workplace so as to reduce commute time. Pellegrino checked off his list: it was a good, relevant idea; it required marginally different costs and would actually save money; it was socially acceptable; it didn't require any government involvement, and it didn't require much change in behaviour. 

 Pellegrino's idea was so simple yet so relevant in today's world of constant barrages of eco-environmental jargon that it brought a collective hush over the audience.

Anirudh Kannan

The next TEDxHongKongED talk is on April 18 at Hong Kong Cyberport. The theme is "Never Stop!" and features World Marathon Challenge 2015 (running seven marathons on seven continents in seven days) winner Dr David Gething, Xyza Cruz Bacani, the domestic helper who's been making waves with her incredible photos of Hong Kong, and the Student of the Year 2014's Performing Artist winner Chan Kwan-ming.