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A Nobel Sense of Humour

Sara Sokolowska-Katzer -

Sara Sokolowska-Katzer -

What happened at the Nobel Week Dialogue 2022? Here is a distilled version of some of the formal antics and gabble that occurred at this rather prestigious public event.

Since starting my Master’s at KTH I have been working part time as digital ambassador and content creator for the Swedish Institute. A couple weeks ago the Instagram account I help lead got a very interesting DM from none-other than the Nobel Prize Organisation. Intrigued, I opened the message to find out that they were inviting the ambassadors to participate in one of their Nobel Prize events.

This is how on the 9th of December I found myself sitting in the fourth row (first row behind the VIPs) at the Waterfront Congress Centre in Stockholm listening to Nobel Prize Winners, CEOs and Olympic Medallists at the Nobel Week Dialogue 2022. It was definitely one of those pinch-me moments.

It was a whole-day event, conference style, and the Nobel Prize Organisation made sure the guests felt special spoiling us with coffee, freebies, lunch and of course the incredible speeches and discussions as the focus point.

Despite the daunting topics such as “What is life?” (direct quote), the presentations were succinct, fascinating, clear and full of witty jokes. The rich array of scientists, researchers, writers displayed their miraculous intellect in short five minute presentations which themes were expanded in the discussion panels that followed. Each speaker’s words were accompanied by simple, easy-to-understand and sometimes humorous slides. My personal favourite being the film still of WALL-E as the UC Berkley Professor, Stuart J. Russell, gave a talk about ‘Living with artificial intelligence’.

The diversity of topics and specialisations gave a whole lot of food for thought. A talk that will not be easily forgotten was of Benjamin List and Birgit R Skarstein’s where they discussed “What matters?” in life. Benjamin List, Nobel Prize laureate in Chemistry, shared his heart-wrenching story of his families’ survival of the Thailand tsunami some years prior. His change of perspective on life after that experience was truly insightful. It wasn’t the fame, fortune and career success that he was thinking about when sucked under the dark body of water, but family and value of life.

Birgit R Skarstein’s, 3 times Paralympian, competitive rower and cross-country skier, shared the story of her life-altering accident at 19 years old that left her wheelchair-bound. Her realisation of life’s fragility as she was writing her will at that young age changed her mindset completely. It was truly inspiring to watch Birgit express, in such a positive way, her shift towards gratitude and resilience.

This positivity and zeal, I found, was one of the main common traits of all the orators that day. No matter the scientific field, profession or background, all the speakers were incredibly optimistic, energetic and inspiring.

Another common ground to this unique group was that they all had unwavering confidence in the awareness that no one REALLY knows anything. Every once in a while a world-famous, Nobel Prize winner, scientist would boldly state that due to the human condition they actually have no clue how the world works. Personally, I found that pretty fantastic. Some might find going down that spiral of thoughts terrifying but in this context it was great to see the humbleness of these great minds.

The day passed quickly with laughter, tears and educational reflection. If I were to pinpoint one thought from this vision-filled day, I would say that there is value in finding perspective. Seeing the alternative in situations good and bad, professional and personal will always be of great value and help find those joyful moments big and small that life offers.

Publicerad: 2023-03-06

Ansvarig utgivare: Raquel Frescia
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