Where can we put a woolly mammoth?
It’s this type of question that keeps Sophie Mathew up at night.
She’ll often wake her husband, John Narraway, in the wee hours with a solution. The pair started TEDx Bermuda in 2011 “to change the conversation around the dining table” but feel that’s less relevant now.
Today, with so much information at our fingertips, their biggest challenge is in finding a fresh topic. Each year’s line-up is finalised only after endless debate.
“Bringing back woolly mammoths was one of the topics we were really hoping to have somebody speak on this year,” said Mr Narraway. “Is it real? Isn’t it real? What’s the science behind it? What are the ethics behind it? How much has she spoken on this already? There’s all this crazy criteria.”
Added his wife: “And then we have our funny stories as well. Where are we going to put this woolly mammoth? What are we going to do with a dinosaur?”
As it turned out, their expert on “de-extinction” couldn’t make it.
Ten speakers will present at the Fairmont Southampton on March 25, the island’s seventh TEDx.
“It’s diverse, it’s technological, it’s exciting,” Dr Mathew said.
A 2006 Ted talk by British author Sir Ken Robinson on rethinking education struck a chord with Mr Narraway.
“I saw an opportunity to do something a little more optimistic in context of 2009, 2010, when the world had gone into economic crisis and there were a lot of doubts about the future,” he said.
“Living in a small community, we all fall into the trap of talking about politics or gossip. I wanted to make it a positive conversation about what is possible and not what’s going wrong.
“Like when you stop thinking about the problem and you start doing something different and find the answer — distance gives you perspective.”
Ocean activist Neil Burnie and artist Graham Foster were among those who spoke at that first event in 2011.
Mr Narraway said it was “almost sad” looking back.
“We had a really good line-up and only 150 people were there. I would still put those same people in front of a 1,000-person crowd.”
The attendance has since grown to 1,000.
“If we grow any larger we won’t have a venue,” said Dr Mathew.
There are now 2,500 TEDx events worldwide. Bermuda was one of the first to take part in this “huge movement”.
Mr Narraway said he and his wife can’t take all the credit: Niklas Traub, Louis Galipeau, Kim Carter and Grant Robshaw are all part of the team.
“The really cool part is that everybody had something very different that they were able to bring to the table,” he said.
The group makes no money from the event.
“Ultimately, it’s for the love of it. It’s a way of giving back. This is what we can do to make a difference,” Mr Narraway said,
Five years ago, Dr Mathew started an initiative to incorporate TEDx Bermuda into schools.
Applied physics student Jake Malliarlos will speak this year. Leader of the Waterloop Hyperloop project, he is developing a high-speed transportation system.
“[He’s] studying to be an engineer. But by being determined and focused on what he is passionate about, at 22, he is in this extraordinary position.
“It would be a pity if I can’t get him in front of the all the 14, 16, 18 year olds in Bermuda, to tell them that whatever you do, if you do it well, you will get to where something extraordinary happens.”