TEDx Leuven – Utopia


It is a fact that human beings have the power to conquer countries, nations, the world and even, as crazy as it might sound, other planets. We are living in a time of transformation, technology, revolution and disruption, in which almost everything we can imagine is possible. Creating the perfect society has never been such a tangible goal, but at the same time it has never been so hard. If you really think about it, it is even scary to realize how much knowledge and power we have in our hands right now, as it goes from healing diseases to creating life. However, this amount of power hasn’t been reached for free. While achieving this, we’ve harmed the earth and ourselves. In that sense, we created a paradox: we are getting closer and closer to have the capability to create the ideal society, but we are also being driven apart by the damage we bring upon ourselves. Thinking about how deep this discussion can be, Utopia was chose as the main theme for TEDx Leuven 2016.

If you are living under a rock and still don’t know TED, it’s a non-profit organization that encourages the sharing of relevant ideas worldwide. To be even more specific, TED Talks is a conference being held for more than 25 year in different countries, with various speakers and contrasting current themes. On the other hand, TEDx is an independent program created to spread new ideas into smaller groups and discuss a main topic that can be accurately applied to that exact community. Summing up, both initiatives take on extremely important social issues. TEDx Leuven 2016 wasn’t different as it held talks about the responsibilities and challenges that come along with the power to create Utopia.

Thursday, the 17th of November 2016, was the chosen date to connect professionals, students and concerned individuals around the possibilities for the future and impacts we’ve already caused in our world. The doors of the Leuven City Theatre (Bondgenotenlaan 21, 3000) were opened around 13:00 and the audience had around one hour to register and go through the gifts offered by the organizers: a bag, mints, magazines, flyers, and newspapers with information about that day and also other relevant events in the city. By the quantity of materials in the bag, we all already knew that the discussions would be interesting and the speakers would have a lot of ground to cover.

During the afternoon, we heard from more than 10 speakers about the future of co-housing, architecture in other planets, robots, crime investigating, mind studies and much more. Speakers like Xavier de Kestelier, an architecture who worked in projects on the moon and in Mars, revealed how promising the future of humanity is. They proved that technology is enhancing the capabilities of human beings and improving the way society is configured. However, Herman Van Rompuy, in an engaging speech, was the one who made the audience realize that there are also challenges waiting for us in this path. Side by side, with other speakers, he was able to demonstrate how we are damaging our planet and why we can’t keep doing it. There is no more room for intolerance, egocentrism and short-term vision. If we want to achieve the dreamed Utopia, we need to start thinking about social and environmental issues that can (and will) influence all of us. We need to be sustainable – for ourselves, for others and for the future of our planet.

The concept Utopia first came to public 500 years ago, in a book with the same title written by Thomas More. It was created in order to designate the perfect society, which was ideal but also impossible to create. The question that remains is: can we achieve it now that we have enough knowledge, technology and power? Probably not, but it is undeniable that we need to work together to be the best we can be.

– Anna Paula Menezes –