Category Archives: swedish_life

The Weizenbaum Symposium

As I wrote in a past post, I was selected to present a school project at a Symposium in Berlin. The event happened last Tuesday, and it was fantastic. I got to spend a couple of days in (my favorite) city and enjoy all its quirkiness, and I manage to see my brother who lives nearby and family who live in Berlin.  Of course, it also meant that I had to put my thesis aside for a couple of days and now I need to get back on track, as there are only 10 days left. But all in all, it was worth it. And so I wanted to talk a little bit more about the Weizenbaum Institut and “The Future of Work and Innovation in a Networked Society” symposium.

The Weizenbaum Institut

Digitalization is changing the world rapidly, that is unquestionable. But what will be the consequences of such transformation? This is the fundamental question the Weizenbaum Institut wants to answer. It is a consortium between German Universities with €50 Million funding over 5 years, and from what I heard it will be most likely renovated in as this period is over.

The Institut is organized in research areas, which investigate a myriad of things. Work and Innovation; Contracts and Responsibility in Digital Markets; Education and Social Inequality; Democracy and Participation; Governance; Technological Change. All of these areas and its overlappings are explored by a number of researchers and students, proving its goal of providing deep knowledge about the impact digitalization will have on our lives.

Who is Weizenbaum?

The Institut’s name is a homage to Joseph Weizenbaum, a German computer scientist, and philosopher. To be honest, I had no clue who he was, but now I did some reading (that is, looked up the Wikipedia page). Born in Berlin to a Jewish family, they fled to the US shortly before the war. There, he studied math and started going towards the computer science field.

Have you heard about the ELIZA computer program? It was the first dialogue simulator ever built, an ancestral to today’s chatbots. Weizenbaum is the author/creator of it, and by seeing people interacting with the program and basically opening their hears to it, he began to think about Artificial Intelligence in a more philosophical way. As he pondered about the matter, he started becoming more and more critical about computers and technology, arguing that it could hinder societal changes. Such inquires of how technology and society interplay are the reason why the German Academia decided to honor him with the Institut.

The Symposium

When we applied to the event, we had no clue what we were getting into. There were no pictures of previous editions, no list of participants, no past publications. So it was a complete shot in the dark. But it made sense, as this was the first symposium the Institut put together.

The focus was on how Digitalization will affect the workplace. The sessions varied a lot in theme and approach, from Internet-based business models to learning and knowledge, to platform and crowd work, to artificial intelligence. It had great speakers and experts from many fields. And the opening keynote was given by the State Secretary of Education. So, as you can see, a “big conference”.

And that made us so, so nervous!

See, everyone there was presenting their years-long project, their Ph.D. Thesis, their Research Group results. And we were just showing a 3-month exploration done in a Master course. Of course, we believed our project was good, but would people take us seriously? Especially when we decided a completely unorthodox presentation mode (with bits of role-playing). To be honest, impostor syndrome hit really hard.

But it went really, really well!

The audience liked our role-playing thing, they liked the subject also. After we were finished some of the Institut Researchers came to talk to us, and we were really surprised when they came in a “peer talk”, that is, really interested in what we had to say, not as “merely master students”. Another person, an older man, said he has been going to conferences for decades, and it is always the same thing, boring slides, boring presentation; so he enjoyed what we did so much.

[one of my colleagues recorded the whole thing, but he lost his camera, so I have no picture of myself presenting it]

This was fantastic feedback! We were so happy at the end of the day, in a perfect mood to mingle with researchers and professors. Such a great day!

When in Germany…

It was worth it!

Going to Berlin was a great experience. More than once I thought about canceling, as I need to focus on my thesis and it would cost me some money. But it was great. The experience of being in such an event with great people and have awesome discussions was unique. Hopefully, it won’t be the last!

/tomas

 

Solving the European Health Insurance Card

Know that the results are in, it is time to start making your KTH Dream become a reality. And it means there is a lot to be done. Finding airplane tickets, take care of visas and permits, look for a place to stay, and a lot more. However, there has been a question that popped more than once on my email, regarding the European Health Insurance Card. I know it only applies to a particular student profile, those that hold an EU Passport but don’t live in Europe.  It is a situation I have been through, so I decided to write about it and try to clarify some things.

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Osquarsgalan: My First KTH Gasque

Back in Brazil, I attended a small private school with the reputation of being “really serious.” They would never enforce student organizations or activities, so there was no academic life beyond the classroom. Things there seems to be changing, luckily, but this is not what I want to talk about.

The fact is that, previously to KTH, I had no experience with chapters and “student life.” But here things are different, and often you can find me at my chapter bar (the META), or playing with the sports association. For me, this has been a way to integrate and meet new people, as well as an excellent way to relax with classmates.

This past Saturday, I did a new thing, though: I attended to my first Gasque.

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The Swedish CSN

There is no doubt that one of the major obstacles to study in Sweden is the funding. No only paying the University itself, already a quite a quite substantial amount, but also the cost of living, which starts with a really complex housing market.

Well, I have written about funding and scholarships before. But today I will talk about a different thing: the Centrala Studiestödsnämnden and how it can (maybe) help you out.

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Easter in Gothenburg

Depending on where you come from, living in Sweden means it is way easier for you to travel around. Berlin, Amsterdam, London, Paris. All of these great cities are 2 hours away by plane. But one thing that I would always recommend when living in Stockholm is to travel within Sweden. Go to those places you hardly would on a trip, that won’t be an alternative when considering vacationing in Europe.

That is one of the reasons I decided to go to Gothenburg and spend Easter there.

What I found was an amazingly charming city, with a feeling of a tiny, tiny town. Of course, being a holiday played a huge part in it, but streets were empty and silent as I would never expect. As a consequence, it was an extended weekend of long walks, eating and drinking well. Pretty relaxing, and definitely without that “tourist urge” of seeing everything in the least amount of time possible.

My plan now is to go back during the summer. I have the feeling that during long summer days the parks are full of people, and then I can also check out Liseberg, the city’s amusement park.

Anyway, here are some pics I took of the stuff I did there. I highly recommend going! Just one quick thing: everyone told me Gothenburg is windy and rainy, I think I got lucky because the days were beautiful.

Cool thing about Easter in Sweden, girls will dress as witches and give candies/chocolates to random strangers on the street.

Also, the city was decorated with feathers, which is really particular to Sweden.

Universum

Universum is a fantastic science museum, with lots and lots activities for kids. I loved how they approach biology and even built their own rainforest. I would say that, if you like science, it is a must. 

A common thing in Sweden’s museums is their focus on kids activities. Here you can see a kids quiz, asking about animals. And then a chemistry lab, where kids (and adults) could have some easy chemistry lessons and experiments. A great way to engage little ones.

Feskekörka

Feskekörka can be translated as a fish church, and it is the city’s fish market. I have to say I expected it to be larger, but in the end, the whole thing is just one corridor. Anyway, it was nice to sit there and eat some fresh salmon.

World Culture Museum

I wrote about the Etnografiska Museet in Stockholm, and the Världskulturmuseet is its West Coast counterpart. The museum focuses on different cultures and had a bunch of exhibitions this weekend. The main one was about feathers and how different societies used it throughout history.

Then there was another one called Crossroads, and it talked about how different cultures exchanged goods and shared experiences. It began talking about current refugees and these lifevests were really striking.

And of course, there was a special section for kids, with different activities and interactions. 

Botanical Garden

I also went to the botanical garden, but I have to say it wasn’t the best time of the year. As you might imagine, the flora is really season dependent, so lots of the garden areas were still closed (it is expected to be fully open in may). Anyhow, the greenhouse was pretty nice, as walking in nature to the sound of owls.

Göteborgs Konstmuseum

The art museum was a nice visit as well. It offered an interesting mix of artists, with a special focus on Scandinavian. I realized there how little I know about Nordic art and there is still a lot to learn. They also display some big shots, as Picasso, Rembrandt, Munch, Monet, and others. The collection also encompasses different time periods, so you would start with the 17th century and end up in liberal contemporary art. Totally worth the visit.

The Parrilla

Where I come from, we eat a lot of barbecues. And I found an amazing argentinian restaurant there, it totally feel like home. Remember when I stated there in the begining it was a weekend of eating well? This is what I meant.

The City

As I said before, the city was quite charming. It just feel good to walk around, and maybe these pictures will give you a little of that feeling.

Make Sure to Visit!

Gothenburg is totally worth the visit. It is a really cool city, with a nice vibe. If you can, make sure to drop by and enjoy it. If you are lucky, your days will be as sunny as mine were!

/tomas