Imagination—TED Circles by TEDxManipal

Introduction to TED Circles 

Ideas and conversations hold the power to change lives, communities, and the planet for the better. They evolve into brilliant advancements, foster stronger relations, and nurture better learning. In its fundamental essence, TED aims at spreading influential ideas. Ideas that bring perspective, and ideas that unite. A newer segment of this non-profit organisation—TED Circles—revolves around discussing a particular theme each month, fostering global dialogue on these themes, and encouraging constructive thought towards futuristic goals. During the ongoing pandemic, TEDxManipal has strived to uphold and boost the spirit of engaging discussions while closely replicating a face-to-face interaction experience for its participants.


For this one of a kind event, twenty-five applicants who exhibited a vast range of ideas were chosen to participate in TEDxManipal’s exclusive TED Circle for the month. Following this, on the 26th of September, they hosted their first exclusive edition of the event virtually on Zoom. It surrounded a riveting theme—imagination. Honoured to have Dr. Raghu Radhakrishnan—the Director of International Affairs and Collaborations at Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), as the esteemed guest for the event, TEDxManipal set a brilliant stage for the evening. 

The Event

The event began with a welcome note and an introduction to the theme. Reflecting on Albert Einstein’s beliefs on imagination, the hosts briefed the participants on the importance of imagination and its ability to impact all facets of life. After this, the hosts reiterated the essence of this TED circle, followed by a set of guidelines for the forthcoming conversations. 

To initiate the discussion, an excellently chosen TED talk—Imagination: It’s Not What You Think. It’s How You Think, was played. The speaker, Charles Faulkner, an independent researcher on language and its effects on communication and decision-making, put forward his perspective through a compelling speech. He supported his findings through varied examples from cognitive research, and thoroughly highlighted the different aspects of imagination. A particular concept he spoke about is how we extend out and create new realities from minor details, which he also referred to as the illusion of objectivity. 

Furthermore, he explained how our technologies, according to Marshall McLuhan, “expand us.” That is, technology and science advance as our instruments surpass our imaginings. And at that point, it’s time to reinterpret the world. Faulkner ended his talk on a wonderful note. He said, “Imagination and knowledge are complementary and complete each other. It’s like they’re in an endless dance in which imagination leads.”

Following the enlightening talk, the participants were split into breakout rooms to discuss their takeaways and opinions. The confabulation spanned for about forty minutes, and this in itself was a prime example of imagination—of how, as humans, we reflect on information and create better ideas as we understand a piece of work. It consisted of a few critical questions posed to the participants to spark dialogue and discussion.

The Discussion in the Circle

Key Takeaways from the TED talk

Some of the participants spoke about the points in the talk that struck a chord. All that we see and experience today is a product of decades of imagination. Imagination has evolved to suit its time, and it has transported us from an archaic society to the modern reality that we are today. Each era sees many transformations through expansive vision—social, emotional, cultural, scientific, and economic. They also agreed on the power of words in the aspect of how they make things what they are, the beauty and strength in different perceptions, and how imagination is vital to boosting creativity, 

Imagination and its Origin

Since time immemorial, imagination has progressed drastically, and today, the ability to envision has become second nature. Underpinned by a paradoxical yet humorous take on the subject, some participants questioned, “Can we even imagine a world without imagination?”

It challenges one to question what they’ve been taught and to ask new questions. The idea of imagination is inherently understood, but where does it come from? A rational take on this involved the notion that imagination may have come before language. Evolution produced a primitive visionary faculty before language and culture honed it into a sophisticated one. 

Drawing Inspiration from Nature

An excellent discussion around bioinspiration and its usage sprung from this question. The biomimicry method favours “choices” that have been tested by nature over millions of years to learn what works and what doesn’t. Drawing inspiration from animals and, on the whole, nature, these designs allow human production to become more efficient, resilient, and sustainable in the long run. 

A Futuristic Aspect—Imagining the Next Hundred Years

Humans have a natural proclivity to ponder about the future. They find themselves pondering over their lives, and imagining the potential ramifications of current technological advancements. During this discussion, a range of futuristic ideas was brought to the table. Climate change, automation, medicine, space exploration, and quantum computing were some points that highlighted the extent of transformation we could witness. A more progressive, equitable, and sustainable society stood out to be the hope for the next century. 

The Drawbacks to Imagination

Some of the participants delved into how imagination can be a paradox—on one hand, it gives humans limitless possibilities, but on the other hand, it could also limit their perceptions. They spoke about rigidity in opinions, and how sometimes, imagination can fuel the pursuing of erroneous ideologies and prejudices. Although the positives far outweigh the negatives, it is an area of study.


After numerous exchanges on the theme, the participants culminated their discussion, and the session moved on to the vote of thanks. A concluding note from the guest of honour highlighted the spirit of TEDxManipal. He mentioned that the exclusively virtual event with fulfilling ideas helped carve new relationships. It fostered better networking, and inspired each participant to broaden their circle, and in a way, their imagination. That, in its rawest form, represents the organisation in its truest spirit. 

With this event, TEDxManipal paved the way for many such dialogues. Through their enthusiasm to spread ideas, they continue to promote tremendous conversations and build a fine network of passionate people. 


Written by Suhani Kabra for MTTN

Edited by Anika Shukla for MTTN

Featured Image via TEDxManipal 


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