Treehouse Talks


March 13, 2015

PLEASE NOTE: This month we will be in a different location! You can join us from 6:30-8:30 on Friday, March 13 in the Hinton Learning Centre (3rd floor, near the elevator) at the Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge Street) for our next Talks, featuring:

  • Arjumand Siddiqi: From Cells to Society: the Making and Transforming of our Health
  • Chad Gaffield: Big Data vs. Human Complexity: And the winner is?
  • Robin Sacks: Like No One’s Watching: A 20-minute Experiment in Self-Awareness

For more information please contact Nicolas Rouleau at

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Take a look at videos of previous talks here, or browse under Previous Talks below. 


Arjumand Siddiqi

 Arjumand Siddiqi is currently Assistant Professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto.  She holds additional appointments, including in: the Department of Paediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto; the Hospital For Sick Children, Toronto, Canada and; the Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.  Dr. Siddiqi’s research examines the roles of policies, institutions and, other aspects of societies in shaping inequalities of health and human development across the lifespan. She focuses primarily on: inequalities along axes of socioeconomic status, race and, immigration within and between OECD nations; the contributions of income inequality and social policies to these inequalities and; the methods and metrics that enable scientific inquiry in this area.

Dr. Siddiqi is an alumnus of the Canadian Institute For Advanced Research Global Academy and former Associate Member of its Program on Successful Societies. She was also a member of the World Health Organization's Commission on Social Determinants of Health Knowledge Hub on Early Child Development, and has consulted to several international agencies including the World Bank and UNICEF. Dr. Siddiqi received her doctorate in Social Epidemiology from Harvard University.

Chad Gaffield

During the past fifty years, humans have gone to the moon, collided particles, and probed the origins of the universe. Until recently, in contrast, how humans think, act and interact with each other has continued to remain a dark mystery. No one seems satisfied with our ability to educate children, govern societies or achieve health and happiness. The era of Big Data promises to solve this mystery by providing unlimited clues about human thought and behaviour that can inspire new strategies for enhancing individual and collective experience.  At the same time, such Big Data raises profound ethical questions that probe to the heart of what it means to be human.  

Robin Sacks

Robin will conduct a brief pseudo-experiment that traverses personal and social psychology to access the audience's inner voice - individually and collectively. 
Robin is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering at the University of Toronto where she teaches happiness, love and play to future engineers. She is also the Director of Research for the Engineering Leadership Project, which aims to understand how engineers enact leadership in the workplace. 
Prior to joining UofT's Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering Robin co-founded Peace by PEACE - an international student-run not-for-profit organization that teaches community building and conflict resolution to elementary school students. 

Robin Recommends:

  • Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers;
  • Walking meetings
  • The veggie dolsot bibimbap at Hana Korea on Baldwin.

Coming up in 2015

April 10

  • Aarthi Ashok On Prions
  • Joseph Pickerill South Sudan: Emerging State or Descending Chaos? 
  • Katie McKenna On the Social Impact of the Arts


May 15

  • Lisa Foreman A Human Right to Health 
  • Michael Valpy: Intergenerational Strife in Canada
  • Aziza Chaouni: TBD

June 12

  • Christina Davy: TBD
  • Bryan Good: TBD
  • Britt Welter-Nolan: TBD


About the Talks

Since 2010 we've been giving some of Toronto's most curious and creative people a chance to connect over great conversations. Attendees have been inspired by a range of dynamic speakers, first at the MaRS Discovery District (2010) and then at the Toronto Reference Library (2011-Present).

All Treehouse Talks are free for anyone who would like to come.

Would you like to keep up with what’s happening at the Toronto Reference Library? You can sign up for their e-newsletter, which comes out every two weeks.

Previous Treehouse Talks

2015 Sessions

Amro Zayed  Bees are the bee's knees! [dancing is not optional]
Ewa Kasinska: Numeracy versus Literacy
Isabelle Maripier: Everybody Else Is Doing It so Why Can't We? Social Interactions & Policy Making
Joe Berridge: On Urban Development
Owen Roberts: Learnings from a Canadian Biotech Adventure
Trevor Haldenby Bringing The Future to Life

2014 Sessions

Alex Jadad: Living a happy and healthy life until our last breath: our greatest challenge
Arvid Ågren: Jumping Genes and Mendelian Outlaws
Derek Quenneville: Making at the Library
Gail Fraser: Avian Life
Jim Harris: The Impending Revolution: Reasons for Hope 
Lauren Segal: Being an Opera Singer: A physicist's view on the preparation, practice and performance of Opera
Lorna MacDonald: Alec and Mabel: Alexander Graham Bell in Baddeck
Marni Jackson: Culture as Barnraising: Al Purdy and The A Frame Story
Matt Risk: Faith, Fear, Fraud, and Fascination
Meaghan Johnson: The Art of the Audience
Mel Cappe: InCome InEquality InCanada
Nora Young: Cyborg Selves: Bodies, Big Data, and Technology
Ralph Baker: Financial Literacy: If a 12 Year Old Can Master It, So Can You
Rene Harrison: Microgravity: Not just about bad hair
Rudy Boonstra: The Role of Chronic Stress in Natural Populations
Vince Tropepe: Stem Cell Science: A brave new world
Wallid Hejazi: Islamic Finance
Willy Bloome: Eulogy for Winter

2013 Sessions

Bridget Stutchbury: The triage concept: should we let some species go extinct to save others?
Ian Clark: Can MOOCs help reform Ontario Universities?
Elizabeth Edwards on microbial diversity: Getting to the Root of the Tree of Life
Hendrik Poinar: De-Extinction: Reviving lost species of the Pleistocene- hype or hubris?
Dr. Herbert Kronzucker: The Ecology of Hunger: The Reach of the North American Dinner Fork 

Dr. James Maskalyk: Helping others without hurting yourself  
Jeffrey Rosenthal: Why Statisticians Don’t Believe in ESP
Jennifer Spear: Everything is an Offer
Leila Boujnane: Wild About Cheese

Matt Thompson: The Open Manifesto: how to work smarter, supercharge collaboration and redesign the world
Maydianne Andrade: Everything I need to know about evolution, I learned from a cannibalistic spider 
Michael Anton Dila: A Start-up is a Bomb
Michael Hartley: Time for an Aral Spring? Why the Arab Spring did not penetrate Central Asia
Oona Fraser: Ambiguity, conflict, nuance and paradox.
Rob Spekkens: If correlation doesn't imply causation, what does? 
Sandra Martin: The ten top myths about obituaries 
Stuart Candy: Confessions of a guerrilla futurist
Susan Kates: We & Them: Teaching GenY, GenX & Boomers
Tim Hurson:Why We All Go to the Same Different Meeting Together
Timothy Nash: Sustainable Investing 101
William Thorsell: Three Helpful Ideas for Toronto

2012 Sessions

Andrea Hamilton: Social Networking Meets Crowdsourcing Offline
Andrew Westoll: Releasing Your Inner Ape
Assaf Weisz: Changing the Future
Camilla Gryski: The Labyrinth: Path, symbol, and metaphor
Darryl Gwynne: Why Are Males Masculine, Females Feminine and Occasionally Vice Versa? (Darwinian Sexual Selection as an Exercise in Critical Thinking)
Denise Balkissoon: Why Can’t I Quit Facebook?
Erin Bury: Tapping into Interest Graphs to Curate Online News
George Elliott Clarke: Harper’s Tea-Party Government
Ilana Ben-Ari: Toys as Tools for Change
Jeff Warren: The Elements of Experience
Dr. Jody Culham: How many brains do you have?
Dr. John Godfrey: Is Global Citizenship possible?
John Sobol: Know Your Media, Know Your Self
Jon Duschinsky: The (New) Power of People
Jorge Ulloa: The Global Water Cooler — Multiculturalism in the Workplace
Karl Schroeder: Tomorrow’s Toronto: A Foresight Exercise on the Future of our City
Katerina Cizek & Graeme Stewart: Re-imagining our Vertical City
Laurence Packer: Bees
Marcius Extavour: Science and politics don’t mix… or do they?
Mariella Bertelli: “Happily ever after?” An exploration of the fairy tale, its past, its future and its place in today’s culture
Mandy Wintink: The Sweet Smell of Failure
Stan Chu Ilo: Do We Still Need Religion Today? A new look at Islam, Christianity, and the Secular West
Stephen Morris: A physicist in the sandbox
Tom Heintzman: The Role of the Individual in Transforming Energy Systems

2011 Sessions

Andrea Dana Eisen: Being a Teacher to the Stars
Aruna Handa: Eating Our Words: Making good on the promise of a better life
Craig D. Adams: Input Output Cinema & Other Nonsense Buzzwords
Eric Boyd: DYI Transhumanism
Gabrielle McLaughlin: The Boulevard of Baroquen Dreams
Harvey Weingarten: The Future of Canada’s Public University System
Dr. James Robert Brown: Thought Experiments, Or How to Learn Cool Stuff Just by Thinking
Jessa Gamble: Daily Rhythms Around the World
John Beebe: More than diverse: Faces Of Complexity: A Photographic Exploration
John Paul Morgan: Invention Is As Often About Decision As It Is About Discovery
Dr. Jordan Peterson: Planning the Ideal Future, Rationale, & Strategy
Father Joseph Ogbonnaya: The Challenges of Integral Development
Lee Smolin: Is Time Real or an Illusion?
Miroslav Lovric: What if we could touch infinity?
Dr. Monika Havelka: How to Build a Whale: Mechanisms of Macroevolutionary Change
Nathalie Desrosiers: Liberty and Twitter: Civil Liberties in the XXIst Century
Justice Robert Sharpe: The Canadian Constitution as a Living Tree
Ryan North: A Brief History of Comics, And How Comics On The Internet Will Save The World (Or At Least Save Comics, But That’s Still Pretty Good)
Salima Syera Virani: “The Personal Brand” and its Importance for Entrepreneurs
Sheila McCook: Newspapers: A Physical Check-Up
Simon Cole: Collecting Contemporary in Toronto

2010 Sessions

Abigale Miller: Mealworms: Food or Not Food?
Amie Sergas: The Social Value of Roller Derby
Ana Serrano: No, Interactive Storytelling is Not an Oxymoron
Bob McDonald: What if everything you know is wrong?
Dan Falk: The Enigma of Time
Darren O’Donnell and The Torontonians: You, Too, Can Be 14
Donna Francis: Knitting Science and Art Together
Jeff Woodrow: Thinking of Someone Else for a Change
Leehe Lev: The Seven Dimensions of Wellness
Loreen Barbour: Life in Northern Russia
Micah Toub: The Jungian Shadow: How to turn your enemy into a role model
Mike Paduada: Careers from Math to the Moon
Mirella Amato: The Challenges of Beerology
Nadja Sayej: Fear and Loathing in the Art World
Nicolas Rouleau: Law and International Development
Nogah Kornberg: Teaching the G-Word to 9-Year-Olds
Russell Zeid: Nexialism
Sasha Grujicic: Technology and Change: How it’s happened, how it’s accelerating, and how we need to deal with it
Sasha Van Bon Bon: Decriminalizing the Sex Trade in Canada and Beyond
Shawn Micallef: Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto
Shirley Khalil: Empowerment and healing using music
Steve Ferrara: Street Art in Toronto
Susan G. Cole: The Age of Queer: Does the word ‘lesbian’ still mean anything?
Zahra Ebrahim: Design and Social Change