Remaking Nature: human futures and the reinvention of nature
Tuesday, 22 May 2018
Wherever we look, nature is intertwined with human artifice. In this period of unbridled human intervention, some see the grand experiment with mother nature, as all but inevitable; even the taboo against editing human lives is losing force. But should there be limits to this Second Creation, and what value if any still attaches to the concept of nature? During the final Challenging Society Session for this academic year, with the theme ‘Remaking Nature' on 22 May, renowned scholar Sheila Jasanoff argued that nature retains power as an ethical and political imaginary. Together with our UvA Rector Karen Maex as Challenger, they discussed how to shape our future in the best possible way.
A Second Creation: Human Futures and the Reinvention of Nature
It is fashionable to say that we have entered the age of the Anthropocene, a geologic time when human and terrestrial forces no longer work independently of one another. Wherever we look, nature is intertwined with human artifice: oceans filled with microplastics, soils replete with chemicals, biodiversity confronting unprecedented extinction, and the atmosphere choked with greenhouse gases, imperiling our common future. In this period of unbridled human intervention, some see the grand experiment of geoengineering, managing the encounter of the sun’s rays with the Earth, as all but inevitable; even the taboo against editing human lives is losing force.
Should there be limits?
Indeed, the Anthropocene seems to have crossed the line from description to prescription, from a scientifically accountable state of affairs to a normative project for humankind. But should there be limits to this Second Creation, and what value if any still attaches to the concept of nature? Jasaonff gives examples in her keynote that nature retains power as an ethical and political imaginary, an invitation to reflect more deeply on who sets the courses of change, to what ends, and by what means—and who, by the same token, does not.
If you would like to watch the video registration of this evening, click the button below.
About keynote speaker Prof. Sheila Jasanoff
Sheila Jasanoff founded and directs the Program on Science, Technology, and Society at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Her research focuses on science and the state in contemporary democratic societies. Her work is relevant to science & technology studies, comparative politics, law and society, political and legal anthropology, sociology and policy analysis. With her recent publication The Ethics of Invention (W.W. Norton & Company 2016), Jasanoff ranges across several themes, she challenges the common assumption that technology is an apolitical and amoral force. Technology, she masterfully demonstrates, can warp the meaning of democracy and citizenship unless we carefully consider how to direct its power rather than let ourselves be shaped by it. The Ethics of Invention makes a bold argument for a future in which societies work together—in open, democratic dialogue—to debate not only the perils but even more the promises of technology. In her Lecture, many themes she addressed previously in her work will resonate: the relationship between science and policy advise (The Fifth Branch: Science Advisers as Policymakers, 1990), risk management (Learning From Disaster: Risk Management After Bhopal 1994) biotechnology and law (Reframing Rights: Bioconstitutionalism in the Genetic Age 2011) en science and public debate (Science and Public Reason 2012) and most notably her view on ‘imaginaries’ (Dreamscapes of Modernity 2015). For more info click here.
About UvA Challenger Rector Karen Maex
Prof. ir. Karen Maex has been appointed Rector Magnificus of the University of Amsterdam as from 1 June 2016. Maex is a native of Belgium, where she earned her doctorandus degree in Civil Engineering with a specialisation in microelectronics in 1982. She did her doctoral work as a research assistant at KU Leuven, taking her doctorate in 1987. After obtaining her doctorate in 1987, Karen Maex took an appointment as research director of the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO) and conducted groundbreaking research into the use of nanotechnology in electronics at the IMEC (Interuniversity Micro-Electronics Centre). As author and co-author of more than 250 publications, Maex has been a significant contributor to work at KU Leuven on material properties in micro and nano structures, in which she has also supervised (and co-supervised) numerous doctoral researchers. Maex has been a member of the Governing Board of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) since 2008, where she focuses on international viewpoints on education and research.
Workshop: Digital Governance and the Distributed Self
The rise of the digital sphere has equipped human beings with a second self, the digital shadows of the physical selves who move through the world engaged in the materialities of existence. The workshop will explore how human rights and responsibilities have been, and are being, reconfigured as we share our physical lives with our digital selves. Sites in which these governance challenges are being worked out include tensions between autonomy and surveillance, lived lives and archived identities, and individual personhood versus group affiliation based on behaviors and preferences in digital space. (More info on how to apply for this workshop will follow soon)