TEDxBerkeley 2019 celebrates 10th anniversary at ‘Infle(X)ion’ conference

Samuel Albillo/Staff

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More than 1,800 attendees filled Zellerbach Hall on Saturday to see 23 diverse speakers and performers at the 10th annual TEDxBerkeley event.

The seven-hour event was organized by TEDxBerkeley and put on with the help of 150 volunteers, according to event co-curator Madhav Nekkar. The conference explored the theme “Infle(X)ion” through three sessions titled “Point of Origin,” “Peaks and Valleys” and “State of Flux.”

“Our society is changing really rapidly in a lot of different ways, and we wanted to highlight some of those ways in which that’s happening and what we can do to maximize the progress while minimizing the reckless danger or the missteps of thinking that mankind knows everything,” Nekkar said.

The conference featured speakers and performers who discussed topics ranging from environmental justice to resilience to decentralized artificial intelligence.

The first session started with an energetic performance by UC Berkeley Raas Ramzat, which performed a type of Indian folk dance. The group’s performance was followed by Jeremy Richman’s talk, “Be Human(e),” in which Richman discussed how the grief of losing of his 6-year-old daughter in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting prompted Richman and his wife to create The Avielle Foundation.

The foundation is dedicated to promoting and funding neuroscience research, finding the factors that lead to violence and compassion, and making this information accessible to the public through community engagement. Richman argued that we need to see mental health issues as diseases “that can be prevented, intervened and cured.”

The first session also featured UC Berkeley professor Scott Stephens’ “Wildfires in California: Friend or Foe?” speech. Award-winning ballerina and UC Berkeley student Miko Fogarty discussed her journey of deciding to study integrative biology rather than continue her dance career in “A Ballerina’s Story of Rediscovery.”

After a 70-minute lunch break, the conference started off Session 2 with a performance from Salsa At Cal. A highlight of the second session was “How to Run 2 Companies and Win an Emmy,” in which UC Berkeley alumna Nanxi Liu discussed how she has made things happen for herself.

Liu said she surrounded herself with “brilliant people” during her time at UC Berkeley, noting that “you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

The session finished with Royce Lovett’s “Love, Purpose & Security” performance. Lovett sang and played guitar and piano, interspersed with motivational speaking.

The third session began with a performance by UC Jazz. A highlight of the third session was David J. Peterson’s “The Greatest Invention in the History of the World.” Peterson, a UC Berkeley alumnus, has created languages for several TV shows and movies, including “Game of Thrones” and “Doctor Strange,” and he spoke about the importance of language to civilization.

The third session also featured Zachary Norris and Zhen Dao. Norris discussed the need for criminal justice reform, arguing that “we’ve invested in this punishment dragnet rather than investing in a social safety net.” Dao, a transgender woman, spoke about her experiences and societal perceptions of gender and transgender.

The conference ended with a video commemorating TedxBerkeley’s 10-year anniversary and a performance from pianist Eoin Harrington and harpist Lucinda Belle called “Here’s to the Crazy Ones!”

A wine reception followed the conference in the Pauley Ballroom in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union.

Contact Maya Akkaraju at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @maya_akkaraju.