Invisible Tomorrows: TEDx Danubia 2016

written by Eszter Polyák, László Gere

Crafting a film by using a photocopier, leaving the solar system with antimatter, and triumphing over cancer… Even those who merely dropped by for a short while to lend an ear to “Invisible Tomorrows”, a conference addressing mapping and getting to know the future, may have felt they dropped into an entirely new world era.  With the support of PAGEO, TEDxDanubia 2016 has once again brought interesting speakers from Hungary and abroad to Budapest, who made the inscrutable future that awaits us more visible through their innovative, entertaining and informative talks in the spirit of TED events.


TED started out in 1984 and today it spreads those ideas which may make the world a better place in a hundred languages and several hundred million video views. On its extraordinarily broad palette not only scientific, business, and provocative talks addressing global issues find place, but also entertainment content. The TEDx events are organized by independent, enthusiastic local teams and communities around the world. The x after the TED abbreviation refers to this independent, self-organisatory quality.

TEDx Danubia has been held annually since 2010. This year’s event received the subheading “Invisible Tomorrows”. With these words the organizers wished to call attention to how ever faster changes and the ever more complex world surrounding us have presented us with a future that is open to an unprecedented extent. This might be frightening or dizzying, but simultaneously inspiring and motivating as well. It depends only on us what sort of a world we inhabit in the future, as it is we who “create” it, and therefore sometimes we must understand the past and the present and recognize the dangers and opportunities that are ahead of us. The talks presented at the conference reflected this guiding thread as a kind of intellectual and emotional trip.


The day’s first section received the heading “With a courageous heart”. Outstanding achievements came into the spotlight: Szilvia Lubics, three-time winner and ultramarathon runner gave an inspiring speech about running in the world’s toughest ultramarathon race. Éva Szentesi recounted how she triumphed over cervical cancer, why frequent cancer screenings are important, and what we can do for early recognition. PAGEO’s invited guest, Alisáe de Tonnac introduced herself. Previously, she studied the luxury industry of developed Western countries. Then, taking a 180 degree turn, she moved to Laos, Nigeria, so that she could observe the sharp increase of startups in emerging countries’ markets. As she mentioned, having adopted the newest technologies, emerging nations are not facing continuous growth, but are rather “leapfrogging”. In this section, several other presenters came up with courageous, innovative ideas. Laura Kriefman, who presented a talk in Budapest as an “architectural coreographer” conducted the giant cranes of Bristol Harbor in a performance entitled “MassCraneDance”. Mátyás Csiszár creative technologist and founder of the Hungarian innovative workshop MeetLab, which catalyzes virtually any project with architectural and visual methods. Tamás Kőszegi presented his newest short film which he assembled with a photocopier, as well as the circumstances of the “shooting” process. Tamás Balogh, a jazz pianist, presented a theoretical and practical presentation about musical improvisation.


The talks in the next section focused on recognition. The stream of serious talks was interspersed with lighter, musical numbers, where the participants could even encounter a newly invented musical instrument (in Kornél Horváth’s sound presentation), or other exotic instruments as well (in the presentation of Felícia Bozóky, who played three instruments, the ukulele, banjo, and omnichord in succession).

There were those who focused on entirely new fields: Catharina Paulkner, material scientist, presented graphene’s future applications; Lexi Mills digital anthropologist spoke of the links between digital networks and the study of human behavior; Yaniv Erlich, genome researcher, cyber geneticist, pioneer of new genetic methods and bioinformatics, who was also invited by PAGEO, spoke about his newest research results.

Two talks investigating current geopolitical events, presented by experts, concluded the section. Daniele Genser, historian, peace researcher and energy expert, gave a talk on energy sources and related conflicts; the second was given by Hanif Quadir, an expert on deradicalization and anti-terrorism with an extraordinary life path: born in the United Kingdom, he joined Al-Qaeda in 2002, but he was repelled by the Talib system and its cruelty. Today, he is the president of an anti-extremist foundation in East London.


The concluding part directed attention to such, seemingly insignificant events, which could turn the world towards a completely new age, a more livable future. Clio Cresswell, Australian mathematician and a popular public figure, argued that every human being is capable of mathematical thinking, for mathematics is a culture-independent language that can be found instinctively in everyone. Accordingly, so Cresswell, several everyday things can be described with mathematical formulas: for instance, she published a book on the mathematics of sex. Ryan Weed, an antimatter physicist aims to create a rocket propelled by antimatter, which would be capable of achieving high speeds, making it possible that expeditions leave the Solar system.

A few young thinkers have also introduced themselves who received support for their work within the framework of the TEDxFellowship program. Bori Fehér studies social design issues as a member of the MOME sustainability research group. Another fellow, Ákos M. Lőrincz, immunologist, seeks a solution to the future’s perhaps most urgent healthcare issue, antibiotic resistant bacteria, taking as his point of departure the natural protective mechanisms of the immune system. He and his team have reduced the time of microbiological diagnostics from 48 to 6 hours, so that they can treat the patients more efficiently. Mikael Krogerus, writer, and Roman Tschláppeler, creative producer, held an interactive decision theory presentation. In order to facilitate understanding, they visualized all that is known about the conditions of effective decision making on a drawing board.

The evening was concluded by a performance by Fricska Dance Assembly, which opened new doors by popularizing traditional folk dance. At the moment, these three young men hold the world record for performing the most clacks and strikes in a two-minute dance session. The Urban Dance Theatre mixes many dance styles, and through their production the audience could gain an insight into the colorful world of underground dance culture. The act of AmoebaBand and CallMeUnique, a band from Birmingham, concluded the evening. The musicians, who cooperate in several formations and musical styles, mix elements of jazz, funk, soul and hip-hop. As they put it, they wish to open the door to future music for us.

Photo: TEDxDanubia, Anna Győrffy

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