On evolution, space and ex-prisoners – TEDxWarsaw “In a heartbeat”


Can aromatic compounds teach you new recipes? Are we ready for Genetically Modified Humans? If NSA is number 2, which company is the number 1 employer of mathematicians? Are we interfering with our own evolution? When it comes to humans and smart devices – who is in charge of whom? Are you afraid of ex-prisoners? Why do some people reach their goals while others fail?
APOLIN - Museum of the History of Polish Jews.lways on a Thursday and always in March, enthusiastic people gather for the annual TEDxWarsaw event. This year I joined 650 participants at “POLIN – the Museum of the History of Polish Jews” for the 7th edition, themed “In a heartbeat”. Keep an eye out for the TEDxWarsaw talks once they are out online! For now, here are teasers of my favorites:

“Are we hampering evolution today?” – Szymon Drobniak

Tackling a controversial topic, Szymon Drobniak brought up the question of humans obstructing their own evolution. For millions of years evolution sorted the strong from the weak and shaped us into the human beings we are today. In our modern world however, we are interfering with this process. Due to the ability to invent technologies (health care, vaccines, antibiotics, contraceptives) we can increase our chances of survival and feel relatively safe. While the individual benefits are obvious, our health care system might be harmful for our species as a whole. On a population level, medical advances contribute to survival, accumulation of mutations and broken defense systems of bodies. It prevents us from adapting to new challenges or conditions, which weakens our species. If we want to give our future generations a chance, we need to step outside of our safety bubble and change the perspective.

Does the where influence the how? – Bogusz Parzyszek

“Since we are spending so much of our lives at work, we should make sure that we like those places and feel good there.” This was the concluding remark from Bogusz Parzyszek of Workplace Solutions after his talk on reinventing the office space.

What does your office look like? Are you feeling inspired and creative there? The arrangement of the office space influences us more than we think. A more conscious approach to interior office design can positively stimulate employees. With an ever increasingly more flexible work style, employees need more versatile and functional environments suitable for quiet solitary work, teamwork, creative brainstorming and meetings. A lot of well known companies have realized that ordinary offices are uninspiring and do not stimulate exchange or creativity, thus, they stray away from the sterile, minimalistic, traditional office planning. Instead the interiors get more flexible and creative, as, for instance, can be seen in Google’s Zurich office where meeting rooms are in ski gondolas. Another example is Bogusz Parzyszek’s latest project – rearranging an office and decorating it with classical landmarks of the city of Warsaw.

Josh Savage at TEDxWarsaw 2016

How to stop being afraid of ex-prisoners? – Maciej Sopylo

During the last session of the conference, Maciej Sopylo took the opportunity to discuss the prison system. “Are you afraid of prisoners?” he asked the audience. He followed that with “Actually, the prisoners are also afraid… of getting out in the free and of ’ordinary‘ people, who tend to judge them.”

The truth is, we rarely talk or reflect about the prison system, we just expect it to lock up criminals cheaply and efficiently. But let us think about it for a moment: what you might not realize is that, at some point, most prisoners will have served their sentence. They will be released and walk your streets, become your neighbours and you cannot prevent it.

Most prisons today do not prepare the inmates for a life after prison. To change this, Maciej Sopylo teaches journalism in prison and helps the inmates to create a newspaper. This way the convicts learn creativity, work in solitude and in teams as well as cooperation, which are all qualities valued in the “free world”. They also experience a feeling of success when they see the finished product and get appreciation for it from their fellow inmates. Similar initiatives have been taken in other countries too – with promising results.

Image 1: TEDxWarsaw stage. Image 2: The hosts: Maria Skołożyńska, Agnieszka Dziekan and Ralph Talmont. Image 3: The whole TEDxWarsaw crew.

TEDxWarsaw – more than just TEDx talks

Aside from the talks, TEDxWarsaw also offered workshops. On the evening prior to the main event, I attended a networking workshop led by the startup strategist Aga Gajownik. Why do we network and how to best do it? How to get rid of “someone boring”? Dos and don’ts?
In a nutshell, these are my notes:

  1. Network to get inspired and to build win-win relationships.
  2. Talk concisely and listen to others.
  3. If you meet someone interesting, do not get stuck with him or her for too long, rather move on. But do not forget to reconnect after the event!

Workshops were also offered at the main conference. The topics were broad and included creative writing, magic tricks, design thinking and professional shoe care. In other words – something for everyone.

Aga Gajownik - networking workshop

Meeting historic heroes on the streets of Warsaw

After the conference ended it was time for the TEDxWarsaw adventure: a one hour guided tour through the former Jewish Ghetto. We were introduced to several Polish historic heroes and discussed various difficulties they encountered. Two that made a strong impression on me were:

Irena Sendlerowa (also known as Irena Sendler), a nurse and social worker, who fought in the Polish resistance movement in World War II. She saved over 2000 Jewish children from the Holocaust by smuggling them out of the Ghetto.

Jan Karski, a fighter in the Polish resistance movement in World War II. He had a covert mission to gather evidence about the situation in the German-occupied Poland including the secret extermination camps. Despite relaying information and evidence to Polish, British and American politicians in 1942-43, his story was not believed at the time. He summarized his experiences and memories in the book “Story of a Secret state: My Report to the World”.

TEDxWarsaw adventure - Meeting Polish Historic Heroes. Image 1: Jan Karski. Image 2: Tour guide Urszula Modzelewska + map of the Warsaw ghetto. Image 3: Janusz Korczak.Since the TEDx conferences always focus on present or future heroes, it was very interesting to meet protagonists of the past. If you are interested in learning about more the historic Polish figures we met on this tour, you can also read up on Marie Curie, Krystyna Krahelska and Janusz Korczak.

All good things come to an end

The evening ended at the afterparty where we could network, eat natural ice cream and listen to performances by Josh Savage and Shivers and Shakes. All in all the TEDxWarsaw conference was a great experience and although it went by “In a heart beat”, it left me with a positive feeling, many new ideas lingering and several new friends.

Photo credits:
© Monika Abramczuk
Networking image: Aga Gajownik

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About Monika Abramczuk

Monika studied biotechnology and molecular biology. When not engaged in research, she likes to read spy thrillers, drink tea, bake and travel.

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