A Scientist-Artist’s Address to Today’s Future




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Feb 19, 2018
by Mónica López-González
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A Scientist-Artist’s Address to Today’s Future

Fellow suggests technological innovations offer people the chance to connect globally, rapidly, efficiently, and emotionally López-González is a participant of the Salzburg Global session, The Shock of the New: Arts, Technology and Making Sense of the Future

This op-ed was written by Dr. Mónica López-González, co-founder and executive scientific and artistic director at La Petite Noiseuse Productions. López-González is attending the Salzburg Global Seminar session, The Shock of the New: Arts, Technology and Making Sense of the Future.

Any fear towards the future should be abandoned. To be shocked by novelty and uncertainty is to dissociate from the fundamentals of being human: creativity and curiosity. Both are part of our DNA.

We survive because we find new ways to adapt to our changing environment. We explore and experiment because we are aware of self and desire to give meaning to our lives. We share our tools and individual knowledge because we anticipate our collective future.

A glance at the progressive improvement of tools across our evolutionary history –from the earliest fist-sized stones and hand axes to our current automated machinery and handheld phones– reveals our growing cognitive sophistication across time. Why not hypothesize that we are evolving to become even smarter and better equipped for our transforming earth?

We are in a moment within our journey as a species where our technological innovations offer us the opportunity to connect globally, rapidly, efficiently, and, perhaps most importantly, emotionally. We are social beings – music is evidence enough. Yet there is a dread of the massiveness of data and the rise of artificial intelligence.

First, artificial intelligence is not ‘artificial.’ It is a human product made for humans to engage with and use. Since the recorded birth of robotics, around nine hundred years ago, robots have been designed to aid humans in their daily lives. Second, machine intelligence is only as good as the humans who construct it. Data points alone are meaningless; it is how we interpret and use them. If anything is to be feared, it is none other than ourselves.

Throughout history, we have loved, nurtured, tortured, and killed one another. And for what purpose? For resources, power, affection, and acceptance, to name a few – elements that give meaning to our fleeting, conscious existence. The good, bad, pretty, and ugly of our behaviors are what we need to deconstruct, understand, and shape so we can make well-informed and equitable decisions.

Education is paramount. Education in the richness of diversity of mind and body is what transforms fixed, siloed mindsets to empathetic, open-minded ones. The solution lies in a polymathic education available to all where science, art, technology, design, and medicine reside borderless, as unified disciplines of thought, experimentation, and expression. If a truth of the what and why of this world is to be uncovered, it will be through the seamless integration of knowledge past with knowledge present and knowledge to be.

Insight emerges when we are given the chance to learn something new, to experience the ups and downs of discovery, to ignite the unimaginable, to challenge the expected. The cognitive mechanisms to innovate are in place – we are an entrepreneurial species. Innovation is bred through the support of visionary minds, no matter how young, how restless. Urgency lies in the united agreement to shed old, orthodox ways and cultivate what is tirelessly theorized and debated into real action; enough chorus verses have been repeated. Dreams must soar, not remain cloistered among the fantasies of our minds.

The Salzburg Global program The Shock of the New: Arts, Technology and Making Sense of the Future is part of the multi-year Culture, Arts and Society series. The session is supported by the Edward T. Cone Foundation. More information on the session can be found here. You can follow all of the discussions on Twitter by following the hashtag #SGSculture.