We are all residents of this great land, of mother earth. Stop and take a moment to fixate your eyes upon the vastness that lies on your side of the horizon: the near and the far, the micro and the macro, the central and the peripheral. Even though our field of vision will always be subjected to limitations, even though completely comprehending ourselves and the world around us is but a mere pipe dream, we still persevere in our pursuit of understanding, of rational cognition—a valuable and valiant, if not heroic, effort in its own right.
However, as history has so unfortunately proven, all previous attempts at understanding the “all” have long been shrouded in mists of utter futility. We view the implicit and the explicit; we see the details and the whole; we look ahead and reflect back; but in the end, in our efforts to gain a grasp on what it is to truly know, we are invariably blindsided. The underlying reason for this stems not only from our reliance on media to help us understand our world but also from the cap that said media impose on our ability to discover what lies around us. When we use our own eyes to observe the world, the undercurrent of the times surges beyond our field of vision, fating us to ignorance. When we use media as tools for keeping abreast of the times, all individual expression not part of the public thought process—all cognition not yet part of the public understanding—is received with difficulty or with a certain resistance.
Almost paradoxically, existence in and of itself represents a brutally unstoppable force, one whose growth is never stifled by the limitations of media or of the rational thinkers who employ them. And when something buried beneath the surface finally presents itself, cutting into our field of vision like a hot knife through butter, our natural reaction is one of shock. But that thing had always existed. It had always been developing. It had always held great force—enough to, ultimately, transcend the surface, enough to breach the public sightline, enough to become a topic, a question, a problem. After taking root below the surface and then sprouting thereabove, that thing began to gain prominence, quietly accumulating force while we remained preoccupied with other, trivial matters. But whether we believe it or not, the full impact that thing will inevitably have need not be limited to mere ideas or concepts. Rather, that thing can redefine modern living; it can tear down our current ways of thinking; it can even challenge our long-held ethics and principles.
For most people, the celebrated victory of AlphaGo raised a number of questions, such as that of how artificial intelligence will change our lives in the coming years. But does Google’s AI win represent the natural, inevitable development of science—a cog in the non-braking wheel of history—or is it simply a controllable technology overblown by sensationalism? Artificial intelligence had been progressing as a technology long before AlphaGo made headlines; but it hadn’t attracted nearly as much attention as it receives today. LGBT as an issue has also spurred a great deal of discussion. In fact, we can already see how small-scale events, reading-material circulation, and online forums have made it a hot-button topic in big cities. But in fact, people’s preferences and orientation have always been highly varied; and so if ever we are to achieve respect for all people, regardless of their personal tastes, perhaps each individual ought to be in a category of his or her own. It is only once democracy and freedom become part of the mainstream discourse that people begin to seriously rethink the oppression that those in the minority often face at the hands of those who aren’t.
So too are there certain things that feed off of the creations of the current era—things that despite lacking a strong foundation or deep roots, establish a strong enough foothold to be of significance. For example, cultural industries and the development of information technology have provided an opportunity for various niches of music and underground art to gain followings and flourish. Such formerly small clubs and non-mainstream artists would rely on the internet to build up a following of enthusiasts, gradually attracting a greater audience. The modern-day convenience of communication and information technology has become a prerequisite for promoting and growing from scratch a completely new culture. If such niche groups represent a certain individual freedom of choice, then in the future, each individual may ultimately represent his or her own small group; and such small groups could very well end up constituting the mainstream of tomorrow.
This type of change—from unseen to apparent, from nonexistent to existent, from weak to strong—plays on a constant loop, both centre stage and behind the scenes. And while it is true that many in number are there things in a constant state of change, there will always be a certain few—certain technologies, spheres, individuals, concepts—capable of shocking and mystifying us all by challenging the very essence of what we accept as the status quo. They eclipse our field of vision, opening our eyes to a new era even more stirring than the last.
While perhaps there is no way for us to meet these wondrous changes with adequate response, they nevertheless serve not just as a beacon shining light upon the real issues around us but also as a sure source of enlightenment. As facets of a particular time period transition from hidden to bare, the coordinates of that era are redrawn, ideology re-examined—such is the fated responsibility of every epoch, including that in which we currently live. People, through their own traditions and experiences, are always in search of a sense of security, a sense of definitude. However, the developments of the times, rather than providing us with such oases, always seem instead to banish us to the heart of the desert. We are constantly constructing our own system and framework for both theory and knowledge, constantly noting the shortcomings and problems therewith, and constantly deconstructing them in turn; and from our broken, fragmented desert of values, we rebuild from the ground up a new home for who we are, for who we have become. And this cycle repeats, without end. But make no mistake: All of said construction and deconstruction are not without merit. They form the sketch of every generation’s developmental history, leaving behind a glimmering, important mark in their wake.
Many things in this world of ours are on their last legs, ready give way to something newer and better, yet still disguise themselves as key unfrayed threads of our social fabric. By the same token, there too exist many things still in their nascent, slumbering stages, not yet prepared to take full form or even to enter the sightlines of the public eye. This is both the crux and the great dilemma of the times. The visible and the hidden appear to be in distinct separation when, in reality, they flow freely amid sweeping tides of change, carrying with them their fair share of difficult problems, pleasant surprises, and prices to be paid.
In this very moment, we can feel certain forces brewing, taking shape. From complete silence, they emit their first sounds, waking from their slumber—until the moment they finally break through and stun us all with their eminence and sheer power. Maybe this world needs a few changes, a few breakthroughs, to respond to them. Will you see the next straw in the wind? Will you notice the next telltale sign of sweeping change? The TEDxTHU Spring Conference will strive to uncover the brewing forces of the current age. Come discover the newly born, untapped power lurking just beyond your own l.
Speakers may not be confirmed. Check event website for more information.