TED talks spark discussion on campus

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Robots, albeit controlled by their watchful surgeon masters, will soon take over the world of surgery.

Not quite, but they will play a bigger part of surgeries in the future. I took the opportunity to visit the English department’s Collaborative Lounge where each Thursday the English Honors Society, Sigma Tau Delta, holds a regular viewing and discussion of a TED talk.

Though I wasn’t totally excited about this week’s topic, I think viewing and discussing TED talks is an effective way to broaden knowledge and expose yourself to new ideas.

If you haven’t heard about TED talks, look one up. It’s kind of hard to define a TED talk; I got caught in a frustrating loop of pages on TED’s website, which led me to write “TED is TED” in my notebook. TED talks are short (the website says 18 minutes long) presentations by a speaker with an “idea worth spreading” at conventions sponsored by TED. Speakers range from CEOs and former presidents to new researchers. The main criteria seems to be speaking about new ideas that spark questions.  

Here at Dixie State University, this week’s TED discussion topic, “Surgery’s Past, Present, and Robotic Future” by Catherine Mohr, was not something I would’ve chosen to watch. That was fine because I’ve taken enough classes by now to be able to listen to 18 minutes of something I’m not really interested in. This is one of TED’s merits. I can listen to it and think about it, and after 18 minutes I have some new information that might change my viewpoint, or I might never think about it again.

The students at the meeting had a lively discussion about people’s perceptions of surgeons and the human element of surgery. The future potential of having a robot perform an entire surgery, or even a doctor across the world remotely operating the surgical tools, was discussed. It was a little silly to hear people not involved with the medical science industry at all talking about how it might change in the future, but isn’t that how we learn?

Listening to a TED talk is as good as any instruction you can receive in 18 minutes. Fundamentally, it’s the same as listening to a lecture in class.

Though speakers share grand ideas, I rarely notice a call to action. The biggest difference will probably be viewing an aspect of my life in a different light. TED talks are unlikely to change the world or even DSU’s campus. I do think an individual who listens to a TED Talk could change for the better, but, like any class, teacher, book, movie or song, different content and presentation speaks to different people at different times. Personally the TED Talks that are motivational in nature motivate me the most. Surprise!