We're halfway through the day and it's already been filled with tons of engaging activities, awesome food, and great conversation. Most importantly, we are so excited to welcome some amazing speakers to join us today. Check out the highlights from sessions 1 and 2.
Adam Galinsky: How to speak up when you feel like you can’t
We’ve all heard the maxims: “If you don’t speak up, you can’t be heard,” or “You can’t get what you don’t ask for.” At the same time, we’ve all had the experience of getting punished for standing up for ourselves. Adam Galinsky, chair of Columbia Business School’s management department, starts Session 1 with a talk about speaking up, even when you feel like you can’t. We generally know to act within a range of acceptable behavior, says Galinsky, but the problem arises when we don’t know what that range is in the context of the situation. “We have all been assigned roles and ranges, but they are constantly expanding and evolving,” he says. It comes down to power. A person has low power because they just started a new job, or because they have low status in society, as women and minorities often do. For people with low status, getting more power is often an upward climb because of what he calls the low-power double bind. “Lower-status groups often face the need to be assertive to get ahead,” he says, “but then they get punished when they do act assertively.” But there are a few tools that we can combine in different situations to help: By focusing on others; signaling flexibility; displaying confidence; showing passion; and gaining allies we can increase our range and therefore our power.
Youngna Park: Apps inspired by storybooks you love
It seems that we’re living in an age where kids can’t get away from screens. And for some parents, that’s patently a negative. But, suggests Youngna Park, maybe that has more to do with the apps that are available for kids, and less to do with the medium. “Screens are just screens,” says the head of product at Tinybop. “They are a medium, like books or movies, paper or music, and they give us the opportunity to turn this technology into something big for the next generation.” Inspired by classic storybooks by authors like Eric Carle, Shel Silverstein, and William Steig, Park builds beautiful apps for kids. In a quiet and visually stunning talk, Park shares principles for designing for today’s youngest generation. Park’s advice: 1. Find inspiration in the things you love 2. Work with the best artists and illustrators you can 3. Embed learning into interaction 4. Create contexts for creativity 5. Embrace the medium. She shows charming and arresting images and animations built by her team, who drew inspiration from their own childhoods to create lasting impressions.
Maria Alejandro: Growing old is a blessing
Becoming old is a blessing; if you don’t grow old, you’ve died young! Maria Alejandro, director of senior services at Union Settlement in East Harlem, is an expert on the elderly. She’s been working with seniors for over 30 years, and she believes there are a few key principles to living well into old age. After all, she says, beyond retirement you could live another 40 years—a lifetime. Thoughts of suicide are astonishingly high among the elderly, but often socialization can go a long way against thoughts of depression. Says Alejandro, “Loneliness is everywhere. … The prescription should be: Go to the senior center. Join the walking club, a swimming group. Eat better. Go out on trips. Get a dog. Get out of the house.” She shares the lessons she’s learned from her time at Union Settlement, the programs for healthy eating, and the activities that can inspire joy and a good life.
Chris Jackson: What does “multiculturalism” mean?
Today, the word multiculturalism is not loved. People find it trite and jargony. But for Chris Jackson, a book editor who has worked with writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Bryan Stevenson, the word is not a trendy concept, but instead the only lens that we can put on the world to entirely capture it. And it especially has a value when it comes to storytelling. In his talk, he discusses how multicultural storytelling helps us see the past with greater clarity, see each other better, see things that were previously invisible, see the future and imagine new ones, and most of all, see ourselves more clearly and more powerfully in the eyes of others.
Allison Bishop: The adventure of Alice and the encrypted message
Alice has a superpower: “to see structure in domains that otherwise seem mysterious and impenetrable – a superpower of mathematical reasoning that allows her to conquer infinities.” Alice is the lead character in Allison Bishop’s tale illustrating the fundamentals of cryptography. She uses her superpower to encrypt secret messages, overcome an incompetent IT department, hire a team of ninja assassins, and ultimately save a litter of kittens from certain doom. Along the way, she shows that modern techniques for computer security are—despite popular opinion—quite powerful. But Bishop explains in the moral to her story that it’s almost always human error—“poorly written code, predictable passwords, or heads of companies not understanding why they should invest in security”—that undermines that power. “Designing secure and reliable systems that work for real people requires doing something even much harder than just math – it requires understanding people.”
Yale Fox: Renters are powerless. Here’s how to fix that
The average American spends 30% of their paycheck on shelter. New Yorkers spend 65%—twice what is generally accepted as the affordable amount. The New York housing rental system is frustrating, expensive, time-consuming, and can leave us feeling powerless. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Housing activist Yale Fox has a solution to the corrupt housing system that costs the city $750 million each year in building inspections, 311 calls, legal issues, health problems like asbestos and mold, and tenant displacement. As a result of all the logged complaints and decades of building inspections, he says, there’s a wealth of data the city could leverage to rate buildings on safety and health. He’s built a platform, Rentlogic, to give renters an objective rating system to assess new potential apartments. And in his native Toronto, he’s going one step farther—working with the city to issue grades similar to New York’s restaurant grading system.
Rebecca Brachman: Could a drug prevent depression?
It’s pretty amazing that the discovery of the first two generations of antidepressants were unintentional, says neuroscientist Rebecca Brachman. In fact, she says, we don’t know very much about what causes depression. We’re now on our third generation of drugs for depression, called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, and we still haven’t come a very long way in terms of actually curing depression or mood disorders, says Brachman. “Prevention is not something we think about for mood disorders,” she says. But there may be a way to look at stress resilience in the case of triggering depression and PTSD to start. She presents research on the drug calypsol, which she has studied at Columbia University. She’s observed that in mice it can actually prevent stress, which triggers 80% of cases of depression. Even though mice aren’t humans, this could have a significant impact on the rising global cost of mental health care. Says Brachman, “The burden of mental illness continues to rise. Estimated at $2.5 trillion in 2010, the global cost is expected to reach $6 trillion in the next 15 years. Imagine how much we’d save by prevention.”
Nkosi Nkululeko: “Ali” + “Old World Comfort”
Nkosi Nkululeko, the 2016 NYC Youth Poet Laureate, is a poet and musician from Harlem who performed two personal and intimate pieces about identity, the meaning of comfort, and the greatest—Muhammad Ali.
Philip Pettit: What does it mean to be a free person?
What does it mean to be a free person? There’s the conventional view that it is the right to act, speak, or think as one wants. But political philosopher Philip Pettit of Princeton University is here to discuss another kind of ideal. Says Pettit, “Only a rule of law and a decent culture” help us be free. “Backed by culture, the law must define a decent range of basic liberties that all can enjoy at once,” he says. To have true robust freedom, you need to exercise your liberties and act as you wish independent of how others feel, says Pettit. Not only do you need the law on your side, but you also need a culture that supports the law. According to Pettit’s eyeball test, if you can look another person in the eye without fear or deference, you can experience true freedom.