The idea of a 16-year-old, a Yale graduate and a professional biochemist all coming together to discuss various themes of entrepreneurship and life seems ludicrous to nearly anyone — except for Matt Murrie.
Murrie, a visiting English instructor at Westminster College, along with Westminster graduate Andrew McHugh, came up with an idea that went from a simple question to an opportunity for strangers to come together for intellectual discussions and a chance to change the world just a little bit. This idea was the creation of the What If…? Conference.
“We believe in the ingenuity and creativity of people,” Murrie says. “We wanted to give people the chance to contribute beneficial ideas but, more importantly, build on those ideas in these discussions.”
The What If…? Conference, going on its third conference in four years, will take place Saturday at The Blue Note. The conference was inspired by TED Talks, a global set of conferences where speakers offer intelligent ideas and questions that create an environment of comfortable, educational conversation.
Like TED, the What If…? Conference was formed with the goal of constructing ideas and giving multiple perspectives of the countless ideas and philosophies society is exposed to today.
“My whole take on life is when you really enjoy something, like TED, you go out and do something with it,” Murrie says. “The best way to show something you enjoy is to share it with others and keep pushing it to become bigger and better.”
The conference provides presenters with an eight-minute time slot to ask either a simple or intricate question, starting with the phrase “What if?” This year, the questions range from “What if the next major evolutionary event happens this century?” to “What if every student were in control of their own learning?” to “What if men had menstrual periods?”
After four presentations are made, the participants of the conference break into small groups of 10. Discussions of the presentations ensue, and everyone is encouraged to give his or her perspective on the topic and emerge with ideas and a sense of scholarly accomplishment.
“This is where the real magic happens,” Murrie says with a smile.
Murrie is a strong proponent of any sort of change that helps the world become a better place, and he sees the What If…? Conference as the perfect outlet for people seeking a similar ideal.
“You’re coming here, and it doesn’t matter if you’re on stage or in the audience or how old you are or anything,” he says. “You’re a part of it.”