TEDxAUCollege | LIVE
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Thank you for following this live blog by Red Pers & AWE!

After eight interesting TED-talks, amazing performances, and around 40 blogposts on this page, we would like to thank you for following this year’s TEDxAUCollege event. We hope you either enjoyed the show at the KIT Royal Tropical Institute, or you were able to have the TED-experience via this page!

This live blog was brought to you by the reporters of Red Pers and Are We Europe.


michiel van elk | neuroenchantment – superplacebo?

“In the next 15 minutes, I will show you how you can achieve to experience the fifth dimension”, such a promising opening statement of tonight’s last speaker Michel van Elk!

Despite his academic and personal achievements, Michel van Elk has suffered from a depression. When he decided to visit a psychologist, he got introduced to the concept of neuroenchantement.


Van Elk stresses that neuroenchantment might well be a superplacebo: “Many people are fascinated by the idea of what medicine can do for us. They use brain stimulation or neurofeedback to feel or perform better. People are mesmerized by the promises of science these days. Especially because of the high expectations people have of neuroscience, it might even serve as a superplacebo. In one study, we told people that they could experience enhanced or impaired brain performance during the experiment. We found out that people blamed their brain for impaired performance, instead of taking responsibility themselves.”


“I also found that especially people with a very vivid imagination seem to profit from the promises of neuroenchantement. Many people report having supernatural experiences: they heard voices, saw themselves from an out-of-body perspective.” Van Elk continuous his talk by discussing one of his later studies. Participants who were told that a so-called ‘God helmet’, that stimulated their neurofunctioning, was turned on reported having experienced more supernatural experiences than those participants who thought the God helmet was turned off. But there was a catch: the helmet was turned off in both situations. Neuroenchantment as a placebo.


 “What are we left to do? Is there any hope? I believe that spiritual experiences improve our well-being. Having meaningful spiritual experiences has a positive expects of how we feel. We should all look for our meaningful spiritual experiences. Through self-transcendent experiences, we will find meaning and hope and ultimately become better human beings.”

ella maclaughlin | understanding radicalism through empathy

“During my exchange program preparation, we were told to keep our political views to ourselves,” Ella MacLaughlin recounts her experience studying abroad in Turkey “But after having been confronted with statements that violated the rights of the people I loved so much, I decided to give my honest opinion for the first time. I couldn’t help that my response was fueled by a strong disrespect for my Turkish friend’s opinion, and she responded offended instantly. I felt like I was failing to fight back to radical opinions. I began to wander when feeling upset is inevitable, what will we do when confronted with radical opinions?”



“When I first visited my host family, I noticed that in every room, there was a picture of a wolf howling with three full moons. This turned out to be the sign of a very national political party. On top of his support for this nationalist party, my host father was a police man. To say the least, I was a bit freaked out by the idea of protests in such a situation. But after a few weeks, I also noticed how my host father cared for his family, and how he brought me tea every day when I was sick. I became curious how someone who supports such cruel politics could be such a nice person. So, I changed my approach: I traded my hostility into curiosity; I developed more empathy for my host father. This taught me a vital lesson: radicalism can productively be approached with empathy. This empathy allows the holder to engage with different beliefs.”


Ella has an important lesson for the audience to take away: “I ask that the next time you encounter an opinion you don’t like, to not bite your tongue or yell, but to see them as what they are: a person. Someone that is vulnerable, and complicated. Making this choice allowed me to engage with my host father’s beliefs. And it has taught me that in individuals, social and political views are often paradoxical with their personalities. And that it would contribute greatly to humanity if we’d realize that more frequently.”

Saskia van den Muijsenberg | Business Lessons from Nature

“Have you ever had an epiphany so strong that it turned your life around completely?” Saskia van den Muijsenberg starts off. “About 8 years ago, I had such a profound experience that it made me leave my job for another one in a field in which I was unexperienced.”


Van den Muijsenberg discusses how we can use biomimicry to create sustainable solutions to current environmental problems. We consider CO2 the evil of our era, but in nature, CO2 is a building block. A company called BluePlanet took inspiration from nature and invented a way to make cement and using CO2 as a building block rather than it being a waste. This made me realize that in fact, I am nature too; that we are all nature. For every need I have, whether it is staying warm in winter or living well in a community, there is a solution in nature. It made me question why we as humans use fossil fuels for energy distribution, while plants are actually using CO2 as a building block during photosynthesis.”


Since 2010, Van den Muijsenberg has been training and inspiring thousands of people and numerous companies with their sustainability challenges. Out of this experience, she feels the need to indicate the problem of our linear economy: we create waste, while in nature waste doesn’t exist.


“I’m researching how companies use nature as a model to develop their business models. Take Interface, a carpet company. In 1994, they set the goal to have no negative impact on the environment in 2020. And they used nature to achieve that goal. They used biomimicry to redesigned their production process. They used the idea of leaves to come up with carpets that consist of different parts, that represent leaves. Fishing nets are a great building block for making carpets. They now use abandoned fishing nets from the ocean to make new carpets. Thereby they are making a profit while cleaning the ocean.”


Van den Muijsenberg concludes by highlighting an important point: “Biomimicry is turning business from exploitative to regenerative. I’m happy for everyone that has a job in this economy, but at the same time, I’m worried about the economy we’re in. it is not circular, but linear. Instead of recycling, we are creating more waste than ever. Therefore I invite all of you to ask yourselves this question: ‘Would nature hire you again?'”

Mick ter reehorst | Are we europe?

Mick ter Reehorst: Europe is a boring subject, one that is not sexy to talk about. I will talk about it anyway. When we talk about Europe we talk about who joins, who leaves. We talk about the economic or political dimension, but never about the cultural dimension. Between the pro- and anti-Europe camps of politicians, nobody ever asks themselves: ‘What is Europe?’”


Mick ter Reehorst, founder of collective storytelling project Are We Europe, wants to remind everyone that identity is a story, and that story can only be told collectively. “Europe is missing a face. But, just as with countries, Europe consists of a common history. We should go back to the essence, the age-old tradition countries are based on: storytelling. In order to do this, we created a platform where personal European stories could be told collectively.”


“It’s not something you hear that often: ‘We feel European’. We often talk about the European identity in a black and white way. You’re either this or that. Theresa May even said: ‘You’re a citizen of your country or you’re a citizen of nowhere.'” Although he doesn’t necessarily consider himself pro EU, Mick ter Reehorst emphasizes the need to focus on the EU as a cultural entity as well. Mick: “Europe is so much more than a political and economical union. Our Schengen generation is the one that should tell the story of a cultural Europe.”


Closing remark: “In my eyes, we will have truly succeeded in making Europe sexy if we succeed in collectively turning the question ‘are we Europe’ into the answer ‘we are Europe!'”

How Nature Has Already Solved Many of Today’s Issues

“Have you ever had an epiphany?” Saskia van den Muijsenberg asks, and then tells about hers: the moment she truly felt part of nature, after she learnt about the impressive way nature handles climate change. Van Muijsenberg’s TED-talk ‘Business Lessons from Nature’ is on biomimicry, about which our reporter Steinar Laenen wrote a blogpost earlier. Read it below and watch the video: copying nature helps! 


Biomimicry: How Nature Has Already Solved Many of Today’s Issues [VIDEO]

Humans of TEDxAUCollege: Mia Szymanski

“A year ago, I went to India with a friend to become a yoga teacher. Yoga made me realize how everything is connected: mind, body, and people. My thoughts affect my doings, and my doings affect other people. I don’t teach yoga at the moment, but I try to practice it as often as possible. It brings me peace of mind.” – Mia Szymanski


After the event, more Humans of TEDxAUCollege will be brought to you.

How do you feel? “GOOD!”

Performer Benji van Beurden tells the story of his brother recovering from brain cancer in a way that make the audience feel both sad and empowered at the same time. He kicks off his performance with some stimulating questions to reactivate the audience after they had dinner. Benji: “How do you feel?” Audience: “Good.” Benji: “Let me try again: How do you feel?” Audience: “GOOD!”


After the break: Mick ter Reehorst (AWE) & Ella MacLaughlin!

In a short moment, the program continues with Mick ter Reehorst: founder of Are We Europe (AWE), the organisation with which Red Pers is organising this live blog you are currently reading! He will speak about the importance of storytelling as a means of shaping the future of European community and its identity, during times the concept of ‘Europe’ is challenged in many ways. Ter Reehorst is this year’s winner of the jury’s vote at TEDxAUCollege’s 2018 Pitch Night. The winner of the audience’s vote that night was Ella MacLaughlin, who will speak later tonight about ‘Understanding Radicalism with the Power of Empathy’. Read Red Pers’ interview with them (in Dutch) below, written by our reporters Laurien Knorringa and Sarah Borgerdijn, who are currently also reporting at TEDxAUCollege 2018!

TEDxAUCollege: waar vorm en inhoud samenkomen

patricia kaersenhout | creating new narratives

“How can we wipe away the tears of the ocean?”



Patricia Kaersenhout emphasises the invisibility of minorities in Western society. Her artistic journey has been an investigation about growing up in Dutch culture while having a Suriname background. She captivates the audience by exploring the relation between domination and representation: “My parents taught me to attract not too much attention, as we were already different. But the ones who saw me different, were ‘others’ to me.”


“During one of my trips, I encountered a group of undocumented refugee women. We both recognized the complex meaning of being invisible in society. Officially, these women don’t exist because they don’t have documents of identification.”


“Enslaved people refrained from eating salt. They believed that they would become lighter and fly back to Africa. It shows the power of imagination: one can imprison the body, but one can never imprison the mind. For me, there is a complexity with living in a black body. My skin is socially regulated; my body is a prison of my soul. I’m in a constant state of becoming.”


“I decided to be in the middle, between the core and the periphery of society. That way, I can stimulate the center of privileged people towards helping the periphery and towards creating more understanding by listening to the stories of people from the periphery. Maybe the dominant culture can find their humanity back if they realize that other cultures are alive as well. An act of injustice can never expire. We all have the responsibility towards our ancestors, the present generation and our children to set the records straight. Even if it takes a thousand years.”


And with that intense but beautiful performance it is time for the break.


martha montero-sieburth | day of the dead

Let’s think one moment about Martha Montero-Sieburth’s opening questions: “Why are there cultures in the world where the very idea of death pushes us away? Why is it so repulsive to touch a skull, to see a person dying in front of your, or to see another person’s pain about a starving loved one?”


“Death can be accepted, because we know that we will die. We accept it as something that we are all destined to experience. But the way that we die – the memories that we leave – are what makes our death unique. What better than to be able to die, knowing that you’ve given something of yourself to others.”



Montero-Sieburth, who is from Mexican descendance, familiarizes the audience with Mexican rituals related to death. In Mexican culture, death is celebrated rather than feared. “We accept death as a fact of life. In the process of dying, we engage others and we want them to be part of our last part of life. Death is a chance to be socially equalized. You might be rich or you might be poor, but in the end, we will all die.”

Up now: Martha Montero-Sieburth – about Death…

The next speaker will be Martha Montero-Sieburth, professor at the University of Amsterdam and Amsterdam University College. In her TED-talk ‘The Celebration of Death a la Mexicana’ she will introduce death as #TheFifthDimension: “The unknown, the undefined, and the undiscovered.” Red Pers’ writer Keeke van Paassen spoke with her about her diverse cultural background, decades old Mexican traditions, and losing your beloved ones. Read her interview (in Dutch) below!

Hoe Mexicaanse cultuur het gesprek over de dood opent

Sander Veenhof | Be your own robot



Sander Veenhof pleads for freedom of choice to reduce the growing impact of social media: “They are defining what you are going to do: for example by suggesting events and matching us to other singles looking for a date. They might even advise us on what to talk about during that date.”


The audience nervously laughs but the point is clear: digital technology is increasingly creating our reality, rather than the other way around.


Sander Veenhof introduces the concept of API to gain back control: “If you’re decorating your house or doing grocery shopping, digital devices could advice you. But is this the digital world we want? It should be the other way around. People should be the center of attention: instead of letting things happen, it’s time to take control. of our own lives through Applicarion Program Interfaces. It is time be your own robot!”