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  • Writer's pictureGunjan Syal

Science & Research - Truth Tellers

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

This post is a recap of the TED Circle: Truth Tellers discussion held on Sat Nov 28, 2020 12–1pm ET.

Discussion Goal

TED Circles' November 2020 theme was "Truth Tellers".

Science and research have taken on a new meaning during the pandemic. Just as prevalent are the per-existing perceptions and misconceptions about these topics. What will bring us closer to the truth? Let's discuss..


  • Gunjan Syal — Transformation Executive, Emerald Technology Group Inc.

Discussion Summary

It was enlightening to host this discussion circle in the pandemic world. It was just Y* (name anonymized) and I for this one so the crowd was small, but the discussion was extremely deep and connecting. We each represented our respective countries in the North America, culture and varying point of views. It was a wonderful give and take of inspiration:

  1. Y* came from a clergy background, while I come from a very since oriented upbringing. It was wonderful to see that our values and beliefs were quite identical in many ways.

  2. Y* and I discussed what is happening around us these days, both during COVID and at a political spectrum. COVID has driven us to a remote world where it can be difficult to find safe-places for frank discussions. We talked about how TED Circles has provided this avenue now, to bring people together from all over the world for conversations. Before, we may not have considered going online for such conversations and looked for a local friends circle due to proximity and familiarity.

  3. Y* mentioned that her country has not seen this amount of racism and immigration related issues out in the open during our life times. It likely existed in past, however there was shyness around sharing those point of views out in the open. The political climate seems to have provided permission and validated those views. We both agreed that it is a double-edged sword. There is a need to know that a problem exists, however the intensity with which the problem is now visible is too great to manage. The manner in which it is manifesting itself is also too great. Y* mentioned that it may "feel like a pressure cooker at times". It was also interesting to note that this was a world-wide phenomenon and not localized to any one country. The intensity varies from place to place, but racism is now more visible now than in our lifetimes.

  4. We talked about J Marshall Sheppard's TEDx video which talks about confirmation bias - we seek to prove what we assume to be the truth. It takes courage, patience and initiative to really hear and understand a different point of view. We were unsure if the physically-distant and online world supports this habit or challenges it! In this world, you may get what you search for, or you may choose to join global conversations/ read other point of views to expand your knowledge.

  5. We also discussed Dunning-Kruger (we assume we know more than we do on a particular topic) and Cognitive Dissonance (inconsistencies in our behaviors based on our beliefs), also referenced by J Marshall Sheppard in the TEDx video. Y* and I talked about how these come into play in our professional and personal lives. Y* shared that people tend to make assumptions about us now more than ever, based on our looks (we are both minority and women). Then, the decision becomes do we engage in that discussion and to what extent.

  6. Y* had been thinking about how to have inclusive conversations such as these in a clergy context, especially remotely. I must admit that this challenged some of my own perceptions about religion and how it shapes people's ability to seek different point of views, as opposed to seeking ' the truth' from scriptures/ religious aspects alone! Y* shared personal stories about her own experiences and shared that she will explore channels such as hosting TED Circles to inspire inclusion and open-conversations in her own community. I am look forward to keeping in touch with Y* and learning more about her journey in creating online safe-spaces for inclusive discussions on difficult topics that will help with the "pressure cooker".

Best Quote (paraphrased)

In reference to hidden vs. open racism: There is a need to know that a problem exists, however the intensity with which the problem is now visible is too great to manage. Y* mentioned that it may "feel like a pressure cooker".


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