On the 9th of May, sixteen students, accompanied by two teachers, attended the BIG Thinker’s conference at St Cuthbert’s College.
The BIG Thinker’s Conference allowed students to broaden their horizons and learn more about psychology, philosophy and technology. It included two guest speakers: Julie Arliss, who runs philosophical conferences all over Australasia as well as the UK; and Jeffery Hodges, a performance consultant who helps others find success.
The first lecture was by Julie Arliss on ‘The BIG idea in Philosophy”, discussing Rene Descartes’ quote: ‘Cogito ergo sum’ (I think therefore I am). Julie Arliss brought up the idea that our world is all perceived through our senses, which are so often mistaken and led to be wrong, so she questioned what we truly knew. This thought-provoking idea led to an interesting start to the conference, with references to both ‘The Matrix’ and ‘Inception’ allowing the students to see a world which she described.
The next topic, “The BIG idea in Psychology”, was led by Jeffery Hodges on the relationship between success and the concept of ‘self-image’. Being a performance consultant for sport stars, he understands the importance of a good self-image as well as the ability to change that image to change oneself. This lecture gave the students a lesson on how visualising an achieved goal can be the key to one actually being able to achieve this goal.
The next two topics, ‘The BIG test in Lateral Thinking’ and ‘The BIG idea in Future Sciences’, were both run by Julie Arliss. ‘The BIG test in Lateral Thinking’ revolved around a question asked by the Cambridge University interviews for natural sciences, “How many animals did Noah take onto the Ark?” This question brought up ideas on creationism and evolution, as well as the relationship between animals and humans. The ‘BIG test’ was on the ability of the students to apply their education and skills to an unusual thought experiment, answering this question in a way that would emphasise one’s natural sciences skills, without deviating from the question.
‘The BIG idea in Future Sciences’, was all about nano-technology, the ability to manipulate matter to a nano-scale. Nano-technology has the power to revolutionise our lives, though we don’t know whether it will be for the better or worse. She explained the science behind nano-technology, its future potential and the ethical implications it may have. Julie brought up this topic to accelerated students all over Australasia to educate them on the science as well as to prepare them for the future they will all be a part of.
Finally was ‘The BIG debate’ where Julie Arliss was for, and Jeffery Hodges against, the moot of “Free will is an illusion”. The two speakers were both very convincing and had evidence to back up both their arguments, and they opened the floor to students as well. The debate included philosophy, religion as well as psychology, bringing together the 4 topics discussed in the lecture. In the end, it was decided by the students that Julie Arliss had the stronger argument, and that “Free will is an illusion” where choices are already predetermined and lives are already planned out for you.
Unlike most traditional school subjects, the BIG thinker’s conference encouraged our thinking skills and creativity, whilst being beneficial for our studies in the future. It was a great experience, and I would encourage you all to join the next conference as you will be able to meet other like-minded students and learn just how intelligent the human mind is.
Written by Daisy Huang. Edited by Keniel Yao.