TEDx Prague 2017: My Notes

If you did not have a chance to attend this year’s TEDx Prague – here’s what you missed. If you did attend – this may be serve you as a brief recap with a few suggestions where to go next.

Disclaimer: Notes under every speaker often reflect their ideas, even when they are not in quotation marks. The titles of the talks were not available in the program – so I took the liberty to “title” them myself.

Filip Tylš: Psychedelics are not drugs

Having heard about them for the first time about one year ago on the podcast of Tim Ferriss (link), now I see that this is a topic big enough to be presented at the main TEDx event in Czechia. I’m still not rushing to get my first LSD trip – but I’m curious how this develops. Filip’s talk had content to get the audience’s attention. If he would have spoken without a script, he would have rocked.

Ron Finley: A guerilla gardener in South Central LA

The first TEDx Talk played on the video.

In South Central Los Angeles, it’s very difficult to get healthy food and obesity rate is there 5x higher than for example in Beverly Hills less than twenty miles away.

Ron decided to change this by planting fruits and vegetables in publicly owned vacant lots.

His Guerilla Gardening is now changing the community.

“If kids grow tomatoes, they eat tomatoes!”

Cal to action: Go plant some shit!

Pavel Kysilka: We Are Cyber-Millionaires

“Raise your hand if you have moved in the last 17 years.” (waits for the hands to go up) “Very good. You know in fact, you all have moved in the last 17 years.”

One of the catchiest opening of this year’s TEDx Prague. In the last 17 years, we have all moved into cyberspace. And thanks to that, we have assets worth millions of Euro within the reach of our (cyber)hand.

“We can speak about the history of humanity as about history of wasted talent. Think about all those sons of a blacksmith who inherited the craft even though they could have been amazing…” (fill in the blank – salsa dancers for example).

This made me think: Am I happy with how I’m using my talents at work? Are my eyes shining when I’m telling others about my work?


Kysilka: Příští ekonomická krize bude mnohem hlubší. Výbušninu máme, ale roznětka překvapí

Katerina Nováková: The Problem with Plastics

Plastics are a big problem: They decompose in nature into tiny parts and fibres – and then travel in the ecosystem as far as reaching our water supply. Katerina and her team are looking for ways to get this problem awareness of general public.

It definitely got mine.


Webpage of PET-MAT, Katka’s “research group at FA CTU in Prague, which is investigating application of recycled PET in architecture”.

Dianna Cohen – Tough Truths about Plastic Pollution

Petr Třešňák: Low Functioning Autism and Network of Support

Not all autists are like Rain Man. Petr Tresnak’s daughter Dorotka suffers from the condition of low functioning autism and taking care of her posed significant difficulties for Petr and the whole family.

It’s hard to imagine it from a brief description. If you want to see what Petr is talking about – have a look at the documentary Petr co-authored: Děti úplňku.

Yet the situation was also a gift – Petr’s family was able to mitigate the impacts of Dorotka’s condition, their friends came offering help Petr was able to build a network of support. Dorotka allows them to see the world with different eyes, without the filters that we, ordinary people have (and are not conscious about anymore).

Now Petr wants to help other families that have a child with the same condition.

Jan Školník: People will love living in Broumov

20 years ago he and his dad bought a small factory in Broumov. Now they are employing 100 people.

Jan’s vision is to make Broumov a desired place to live; place people are not moving away from, but moving into. He organized renovation of Broumov’s monastery (link) – or set-up an art cafe that hosts jazz concerts (in a city with population of barely 8 thousand).

“If you want to renovate a monastery, you are never done. Once you finish one side, you can start again with the other. It’s like with changing the world. You’re never done with changing the world.”

On his initial struggle to organize jazz concerts in Broumov’s art cafe, he said that one has to be public in a discussion.

“Work in a public space is a discussion with the public.”

Manu Prakash: Scientific tools made of paper

Second speaker form TEDx videos.

“Share the experience of science, not just the information.”

Sugandho: The conflict between our rational mind and our emotions

Found while attending a workshop that her life partner was in love with another woman (and left her for another woman). Mediated on what it was that she felt. Jealousy. What is jealousy? Where was the pain coming from? She realized hurt because she was comparing herself to the other woman. In the situation she realized she was putting herself down, evaluating herself as less beautiful, less interesting than the other woman.

And Sugandho realized: “I don’t have to do that.”

Why are our emotions so separate from our body? When somebody leaves you, you have a strong emotional response. So much that you feel like a child. But our rational mind tells us: This cannot be.

We should not make our rational mind and our emotions fight. We need to find a way to bring them closer. The heart and the mind need to work together. We need to re-learn how to feel.

You can cook a delicious meal – with your heart.

Call to action: Re-learn how to feel.


Alchemy of chakras in the modern world with Ma Prem Sugandho

Vaclav Kořínek: Surprising music instruments

Played three instruments: Double didgeridoo, Star drum made of an LPG tank and a science-fiction version of a guitar.


Interview with Vaclav on Czech TV (in CZ)

Zuzana Pilzová: 2.5 years in Ukraine

Went to Kiev after the 2014 Ukrainian revolution to help support development of local civic society. She found out that there already are numerous projects doing that and instead of starting one of her own, she joined a few that were already running.

If she should name one Ukrainian person that made the biggest impact on her – it would be Bogdan Logvynenko, project founder of the project Ukraїner. With an 18-months expedition, he aims to change the current trend of Ukrainians moving only from small to big cities or even leaving their country without even getting to know it.


Respekt’s blog (in CZ)

Kevin Warwick: Be a Cyborg

The example of what a TEDx Talk shuld look like. Packed with information, personal stories, easy-to understand examples and humor. Delivered flawlessly and with confidence. Now you may be asking – what is the secret behind delivering a TED Talk at such level? Practice. As simple as that. A simple search showed that Kevin delivered a TEDx Talk on a similar topic already in 2012 (link). I can imagine before his yesterday’s show in Prague, he gave the talk 20, 50 or maybe more than 100 of times before. Based on the reactions, the audience loved it.

Kevin does experiments on himself, getting all kinds of implants. One of them makes the door say greet him as he walks through it (that’s nice), another one allows him to control a robotic hand located on the other side of the planet with the movements of his own hand (that may be useful – and is a bit creepy).


Cyborgs: A Personal Story | Kevin Warwick | TEDxCoventryUniversity
Kevin Warwick, Human Cyborg

Just Impro and Martin Vasquez

A good way to engage the audience is to tell them how they can react (Wow, Yuck, You Can’t Be Serious).

Games they played:

  • Story in genres
  • Human slides
  • Birthday song


Just! Impro

Laurena Macnaughtan: Innovation in CEE

Innovation in Central and Eastern Europe

We can do a lot, but we have to network, network, network.

Czech Republic is #1 among CEE countries in the Global Innovation Index rankings for 2017; number 24 in the world.

Someone told her: “Here there are not that many people interested in the same thing as you are.” She replied: “There are – we just don’t know each other yet.” And started building a community.

Call to action: Network, network, network!

Ondřej Šteffl: The Old Ways and the New Ways

In the 19th century, many mothers were dying of childbed fever. Many more of them in doctor’s clinics than in midwives’ clinics. Why? The doctors often came to assist with childbirth directly after conducting an autopsy.

Young doctor Ignaz Semmelweis pointed that out already in 1846 – but the senior doctors did not pay attention to him as they did not want to change “the way they have already done their work”. It took decades – and Luis Pasteur’s discovery of the existence of microorganisms – before better practice of hygiene became common in hospitals.

Maybe we are with education today where medicine was in 1846. We kind of know that current system does not work very well, but we keep doing things the way we always did them. Do children need to be learning maths since the age of 6?

L. P. Benezet proposed in 1929: “We should drop arithmetic!” As Psychology Today sais in When Less Is More: The Case for Teaching Less Math in School, he believed that if arithmetic were not taught until later on – preferably not until seventh grade – the kids would learn it with far less effort and greater understanding.

Ondrej is the director of Scio, company behind ScioSchools, schools that provide innovative education in Czechia.

Call to action: Let’s find ways how to change education. The old ways are not the best ways.

Robert Waldinger: What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness

For me, the most impactful video talk of the day.

“There isn’t time – so brief is life – for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving.”
– Mark Twain

Harvard Study of Adult Development that takes more than 70 years now, gives a simple answer to what is the key factor for our happiness and health:

Good relationships.

When trying to predict which 50-year old will live well into his/her 80’s, the single most determining factor is the quality of their relationships.

Why don’t we pay attention to them? Because we are always looking for a quick fix. And there’s no quick fix to relationships. relationships are messy. Still – it’s worth giving them the attention.

Call to action: Don’t lean into your work, lean into your relationships.

Tomáš Janík: Classical Music House Parties

It’s OK if you find it challenging to enjoy classical music (already Ben Zander dedicated one of the most watched TED Talks to the topic). But you can enjoy it if you receive the right guidance.

That’s why you could be interested in Classical Music House Parties” organized by the group Vážný Zájem (“Vážný” meaning “Serious”, but also “Classical” in Czech – and “Zájem” meaning “Interest”).

Call to action: Get to a Classical Music House Party!


Chamber music in your home? It’s a great idea, but it’s an old one!

Dominika Kouřilová: You can do make it. I did.

Oldest of six children, had serious problems at school, yet received a scholarship in Open Gate Grammar School.

Call to Action: Even if everyone tells you that you can’t do it – try anyway. Maybe you can.


Interview with Dominika

Bob Kartous: Talk to people outside your bubble

What is reality? If we agree on something, it becomes reality. In the 20th century, the media were communicating in one direction. It was simple to create reality. Today – not that easy.

Western societies become fragmented in “Echo Chambers” (in social media, in our news feed and Google search), each of the echo chambers hosting people with similar worldviews and treating those whose opinion differs as outcasts.

In 2000, Donald Trump was one of the most improbable US presidents. In 2017, he is the actual US president. He is like a black swan. And there will be more.

In countries like China, where the government has power over the content of social media, it is easier to prevent the fragmented reality as we are experiencing in the western democracies.

We need to get out of our echo chamber and talk to the people outside it. Like Daryl Davis.

Daryl Davis, a black blues musician, spent the past 30 years befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan. 200 of them gave up their robes based on their friendship with Daryl.

Call to Action: If you don’t understand why some people voted for this and this party – don’t talk about it with your friends. Go talk to those people. And listen to them.


Note: I missed the first 3 TEDx Talks of the day (Zuzana Labudova, Josef Holý, Brian McCormack). If you’d like to share your impressions about them, feel fee to do in the comments (as well as impressions from any other of the talks).

Photo by Drew Graham on Unsplash

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