TED Conversations

Matthew Wieder

Student, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art


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Can we "engineer" our own interests through repeated exposure?

This week in my Bioelectricity class we learned about muscle contraction and how individual muscle twitches build on each other until tetanus (complete contraction of the muscle) is reached. Muscles are made up of small individual contractile units called sarcomeres which when they contract by themselves change the length of the muscle and produce a force that is negligible. However, when the sarcomeres contract in unison, the tension force produced is great enough to allow us to perform all of our normal day to day activities.

We also had a discussion in class about science education and how to get more young people excited about science -- often times in class there was a certain interaction with a role model who provided key influence either in a positive or negative direction.

This led me to think about the idea of life changing experiences. Is it ever a single experience, a specific interaction with a teacher or other role model that leads us to the career choices we make or, are we more influenced by the small events and sets of circumstances that "sum up" and provide this life altering influence?


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    Apr 2 2012: I think there are two question in this conversation: Can we create interests through reinforcement? And: should we create interest through reinforcement? Matt gives the example of interacting with a teacher or role model which potentially affects our career choices. However, the other way I see this is whether it is right for a teacher or role model to spark specific interests in people?

    This is a very gray area as we've all heard of tiger moms or helicopter parents who live vicariously through their children. They may have the best intentions but in the end, they may be doing more harm than good. In the end, I believe we need to teach ourselves and others to observe the intentions instead of the surface-level problem at hand. When we expose people to ideas, what are our intentions at the exposure? Do we want to force them to believe what we believe in? And as consumers of ideas, we need to understand why we are receiving information. Having a horrifying experience should not deter us from pursuing something, just like how we should not blindly believe in something just because of a positive experience.

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