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Unhappy With The Status Quo? You Can Change It, Say TEDxMelbourne Speakers

It's all about asking questions.

21/09/2017 8:42 AM AEST | Updated 21/09/2017 12:27 PM AEST

HuffPost Australia
Try to be whole, be nice, ask questions, find solutions. Try to look at the world through the eyes of a child.

Historically, revolution has been associated with forcing change at gunpoint (or at least, at the end of a musket).

But in an orderly auditorium of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre on Tuesday, a different view of revolution was taking shape -- one based not on conflict or political upheaval, but on wiping away assumptions about society, and harnessing new technologies to build a more equitable, more empathetic, happier world.

At TEDxMelbourne's 'Rebels, Revolutionaries & Us', lawyers, business owners and university researchers took the stage to call for radical grassroots reform, as speaker Laura Youngson put it, "Not through angry protest, but through quiet persistence and creating a community".

It sounds like a lofty and yes, an unrealistic goal. But the energy for change amongst the 1400-strong crowd was palpable. And in listening to the entrepreneurs and company founders living out their beliefs, you start to believe anything is possible.

Take Youngson, a young amateur soccer player who was angry at the gender inequality in sport, from getting access to sporting fields through to media coverage and pay.

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Laura Youngson took a team of women to play soccer on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Instead of continuing to shout at the television screen, she got up off her sofa and coordinated the world's highest altitude soccer match, played entirely by women, to prove that women's athleticism can rival that of men, and to inspire other women to climb their own metaphysical mountains.

And then there's Dr Catherine Ball, who became tired of battling the gender pay gap while attempting to climb the corporate ladder in the male-dominated field of STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths).

In Australia, the pay gap between men and women currently hovers at around 16 percent -- exactly the same place it was at twenty years ago.

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"Now we're talking about let's get 50-50 (men and women) on boards by 2030, let's look at having gender equality by 2050, let's look at 2100," Dr Ball told the crowd.

"It's going to actually take 180 years before we actually make any difference. And I just want to know: why it can't be 2017?"

But Ball isn't just talking about it. She's also founded a company, She Flies, which teaching girls to fly drones, inspiring the next generation of female scientists and providing a platform to advocate for gender equality in STEM.

Patrycja Slawuta likens our minds to a computer, where the human psyche is the operating system -- and encourages the audience to hack themselves, and upgrade their minds.

"Today, more than half the world's population is connected by, through and with technology called the internet," Slawuta said.

"Pinging, beeping, buzzing, like me, heart me, follow me, share me -- we are all getting hacked."

"So how do we hack ourselves?"

For Slawuta, it's all about asking questions and challenging the status quo -- and surrounding ourselves with people who do likewise.

This call to challenge accepted norms was echoed by many of the TEDxMelbourne speakers -- not least among them social economist Stef Kuyers.

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Stef Kuypers wants to change the way money operates.

One of the more out-there ideas to come out of the event, Kuypers put forward a vision for a more equitable world by doing away with our current approach to monetary systems.

He likened our current economic model to a badly-designed piece of computer software.

"Money is 100 percent man-made -- that means the app can be rewritten," he said.

The biggest problem, according to Kuypers, is that our current monetary system encourages greed, because money creates money, while those in debt are much more likely to fall further into debt.

"Money is created by banks, which makes them the source of money. But they are fenced sources.

"Banks only create money for you if you bring back more than you took out. But how are we supposed to pay for that interest if money is created by banks through loans?" he asks.

"What if we could design the money app in such a way that we also get rid of poverty, and the things like education, health care and taking care of the environment don't have budget problems anymore?"

He advocates for a new monetary system, one based around a universal basic income and a tax on money hoarding, which he claims will encourage the movement of money through the economy and facilitate a more equitable distribution of wealth.

So what can the rest of us do to create change, to start a revolution?

For child soldier turned Sydney barrister Deng Adut, it's quite simple: be a good person, and stand firm against the influence of others.

"Try to be whole, be nice, ask questions, find solutions," he tells the crowd.

"Try to look at the world through the eyes of a child."

And as any parent will tell you, a child's favourite word is, "Why?"

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