2nd World Knowledge Dialogue

Towards integrated knowledge for the 21st century
Photo © V. Krebs
Photo © V. Krebs

Project at a glance

Dates and Place

10 - 13 September 2008, Crans-Montana, Switzerland

Organizers

World Knowledge Dialogue Foundation

Project details

The World Knowledge Dialogue Symposium is a biennial event involving 300 top researchers and policy makers from all over the globe. It aims to give them a broader, shared perspective of our world so they can better contribute to resolving its problems. Its second edition will again be held in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. 

This year's dialogue builds on the themes -- Collective Network Knowledge &

  • Human Individual Intelligence:
    Convergence and divergence
  • Collaborative Behavior, Altruism & Conflict:
    From animal behavior to economics and prevention of violence
    -- with presentations by invited speakers as well as contributions selected from abstract submissions.

The invited speakers are all renowned as communicators and as pioneers in their fields. They include philosopher Pierre Lévy (U. Ottawa), sociologist Karen Cook (U. Stanford), primatologist Frans de Waal (U. Emory), astronomer Hubert Reeves (U. Montreal), ecologist Raghavendra Gadagkar (Institute of Science, Bangalore), computer scientist Wendy Hall (U. Southampton), systems theorist Joël de Rosnay (Biotics International), Nobel Laureates, developmental biologist Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard (Max Planck, Tübingen) and geneticist Sir John Sulston (Institute of Science, Ethics and Innovation, U. Manchester).

Their task is unusual, to emphasize what is not known, rather than what is. The goal is to identify areas of research ripe for interdisciplinary cross-fertilization. The tools, methodologies and language used in each field of research are different. Having to explain ourselves to one another forces us to look at things from different angles. The aim is not to have a juxtaposition of specialist monologues, but a constructive dialogue between the disciplines. That's what generates creativity and innovation. The speakers are role models, all have shown that cross-fertilization of ideas works best when the humanities and social sciences have genuine parity of esteem with the natural and technical sciences.

Harvard's internationally acclaimed naturalist, humanist and Pulitzer Prize winner E. O. Wilson is "Scientist in Residence" for WKD 2008. He will ensure that dialogue within the invited presentation sessions focuses on links between knowledge and responsibility. The interactive workshop sessions which follow then allow participants to pursue specific issues at greater length. As Wilson sees it, the 21st century is fraught with challenges for humanity. We need to pool our resources to surmount them.

The Foundation's Director Francis Waldvogel thinks WKD 2006 taught some valuable lessons. There is no single formula for communication between different disciplines. We therefore need to work at developing the metaphors that help us to understand each other. We also need to be open-minded and prepared to have our own views challenged. As the 19th century mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead said, "the "silly" question is the first intimation of some totally new development".

Many WKD participants are established academics at the height of their careers. However, the symposium also attracts talented post-docs and students. Through its Young Scientist Program, some of the best obtain financial support to attend. They assist the Scientist in Residence and workshop leaders and receive mentoring. WKD is intergenerational as well as interdisciplinary dialogue.

For more information about the event, see the conference website, as well as the 2006 online news.

Volunteering Opportunities

The second time in a row, ICVolunteers will again be involved in different aspects of the Forum, including registration and welcoming of participants, room supervision and reporting. We are looking for volunteers to be involved in the event. This time, it will also help identify speakers and personalities from the developing world.



Short Term Projects

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