Thoughts on Uncharted Festival, Day 1

One of the main perks of working for the Daily Cal is attending mind-blowing events, such as the ~$300- per- ticket Uncharted Festival of Ideas, for free. A quick description of Uncharted, courtesy of their website:

OCTOBER 24-25 2014: “Uncharted brings you together with some of the world’s great thinkers for two thrilling days of discussion, debate, and workshops designed to engage and inspire. Hosted in downtown Berkeley’s thriving Arts District and highlighted by a hilltop bash in UC’s exclusive University Club, Uncharted promises to be stimulating, surprising, and fun.”

Here were some thoughts I had about the talks I listened to on Friday, Oct 24. 

If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere

Dale Dougherty & Quentin Hardy

Dougherty is the CEO and founder of Makers Media, and he spoke about the importance of learning through making and building things instead of staring at textbooks. I thought it was exciting that there was a possibility of bringing mathematical models to life through 3D printers, so that mathematical education could be more hands on and visual instead of conceptual and abstract. Also, new scientific ideas tend to be protected fiercely by their makers, so that many people who truly want to learn about cutting-edge technology are denied access into the labs where most of the research/magic is happening. That’s just the way the world works, and it’s great that Dougherty’s “Maker Faires” are trying to lend these ideas more accessibility.

The colorization of America

Jeff Chang & Adam Mansbach

Adam Mansbach is as funny in real life as his book, “Go the F*ck to Sleep,” suggests. He and Jeff Chang, Executive Director for the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford, are the funniest duo in the lineup and have wonderful chemistry. I thought it was interesting the way Chang and Mansbach discussed racial and social justice through the lens of parenting. As a parent, Mansbach came up with an interesting idea: kids often think of “fairness” in very personal terms, often complaining that “my brother has more toys than me. Not fair!” Mansbach proposes shaping children’s innate sense of “fairness” into a wider vision of social justice.

Here comes the sun: the new energy future

Nate Lewis & Annalee Newitz

Nate Lewis, Professor of Chemistry at CalTech, is working to harness the massive amounts of energy we get from the sun, turn that energy into fuel through artificial photosynthesis (imitating plants), and create enough storage to make solar energy practical and sustainable.

While I’m glad to be living in a world where science is so advanced (compared to the horse and buggy days), at the same time, I’m terrified to be living in a world that is in such desperate need of clean and efficient energy. The sense of urgency I got from Lewis made me realize how close the human species might be to the brink of destruction.

I’m grateful to all the scientists and innovators out there who are working so hard to make our world better, when all we have to do is sit back and enjoy the alternative energy that will gradually replace the oil we pump at our gas stations.

All in the mind: stereotypes exposed

Claude Steele & Lance Knobel

Claude Steele, UC Berkeley Executive Vice Chancellor, told the story “Whistling Vivaldi,” in which an African-American student at U of Chicago realized that people on the streets stopped viewing him as a scary black man after he started whistling Vivaldi and Beatles’ music as he walked down the street. I’ve definitely experienced “stereotype threats” of my own- I’m always paranoid that people will view me as a bad driver because I’m an Asian female (maybe that’s why I’m a bad driver). I also agree with Steele: while stereotyping, categorizing, and simplifying information around us seems to be an innate and necessary human instinct, stereotyping people can have disastrous consequences, particularly when combined with police brutality, in the Treyvon Martin and Ferguson cases.

More thoughts on Uncharted, coming soon!

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