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What Is New Under the Sun: Oral Futures to the Rescue of All Those Who Worry 07/03/18 12)14

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A special message from Roger Malina. View this email in your browser

Dear Diana,

I recently worked on a project with our physics department at the University of


Texas at Dallas where we recorded “oral futures”—physicists discussed results
they would be publishing 50 years from now. It would be fascinating to have the
oral futures of the founders of Leonardo journal, speculating on the state of the
arts and society today, the journal’s 50th year. At the Leonardo 50th event in
Bologna, I was asked by Pier Luigi Capucci about topics that I may be worrying
about; these are the developing oral futures for Leonardo.

I’m an astronomer, and in the last 10–15 years we’ve discovered that most of
the universe is made of dark matter and doesn’t emit light. And so, as
astronomers, we have the wrong senses to understand the universe; this
implicit bias led us to a totally erroneous concept of it. I make an analogy
between dark matter and what Poe Johnson and I have called “dark culture”;
we have systems to tell us what’s going on, but almost all the interesting stuff is
dark and doesn’t reach universities. Popular culture is full of innovation today,
but our institutions are designed to see things using the kinds of tools that
academics develop. Leonardo journal is an example of a biased telescope that
focuses mostly on the work done in universities.

I think we are going through another deep transition at the moment, where the
amount of sensory input we get through instruments is now exceeding what we
get through our senses. We now talk of the “data body,” which contains
information about ourselves that we can now collect using medical instruments.
Fifty years from now, how will we live with both knowledge of our physical
bodies (and the world accessible through our senses), and of our data bodies

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What Is New Under the Sun: Oral Futures to the Rescue of All Those Who Worry 07/03/18 12)14

(that know things our physical bodies don’t)?

Another worry topic is transdisciplinary collaboration. Our institutions are set


up to identify individuals and reward individuals. But all the complex problems
we are working on now require groups of people to work together. We still give
PhDs to individuals, not to teams; the Nobel Prize is awarded to individuals, not
to teams. How do we change all our methodologies for training and rewarding
the individual genius to a team that displays genius?

Another worry may be kind of obvious, but which I think we haven’t thought
enough about, is in our societies: Certainly, as a general trend, life expectancy
has increased. I now have many colleagues who are 80 and still fully involved
in a professional activity, but our universities want nothing to do with them.
They close their email accounts, get them out of the office. In France I was
made to retire when I was 65; well, maybe I still have another career ahead of
me. So I think there is an interesting problem of how we change our social
structures to make sure that we have intergenerational communication,
creativity, innovation and discussion going on.

The final thing and many people have written about this, is it is clear that there
are a number of very rapid changes going on at this moment in the world. In the
past, when the climate changed, people moved, and the climate did not often
change in a hundred years; it happened over a longer period, and so people
migrated gradually to another place. Now we have migrated everywhere on our
planet that we can migrate to, so there’s nowhere else to migrate, except outer
space, and I don’t think that’s a useful solution in the current situation. Most
changes on this planet have been on time scales that are longer than one
generation or two generations. The current climate change presents an
opportunity to actively redesign our culture using design methodologies.

And so as we try and develop oral futures for Leonardo, my five topics are:
intergenerational communication; redesigning culture; dark culture and
data culture; and favoring the emergence of transdisciplinary Leonardo
teams, not individual geniuses.

Roger Malina

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What Is New Under the Sun: Oral Futures to the Rescue of All Those Who Worry 07/03/18 12)14

Founder, Board Member and Executive Editor


Leonardo/ISAST

For a deeper look into this excerpt please download The New and
History edited by Pier Luigi Capucci and Giorgio Cipolletta with NOEMA.

Copyright © 2018 Leonardo/ISAST, All rights reserved.

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