Posted: Thursday 11 February, 2016

Make or Break

So here we are, well into the second decade of the twenty-first century of the current era. Many of us will say that we are in a load of trouble: a world increasingly stricken by climate change, struggling economic systems, irresolvable political, religious and social conflicts, and more. Yet, along the way, we have passed the cusp of some extraordinary technical advances: artificial intelligence and machine learning, incredibly efficient genetic sequencing and manipulation, novel smart materials, all underpinned by massive data sets and super-fast computing.  We would hope that innovations such as these contribute to improved quality of life for all the citizens of earth.

But perhaps that is only an optimistic dream. Perhaps we will end up in dystopian  enclaves overseen by the virtual robots operated by a handful of global companies, with scant heed for the rigours of democratic decision making. Or is there an alternative outcome, in which local communities self-organise, cherry-pick the most appropriate new technologies, share resources, commit to mutual support? Innovative real-world solutions may lie in some ambiguous middle ground, or they may be found altogether elsewhere.

Whatever the case, doing nothing is not an option. We inevitably will move on. What must we make in order to proceed into a future that is productive yet sustainable, diverse in its agendas, inclusive in its aims? What must we break in order to renew, refresh, rebuild?

Will we make walls or break them down? Will we make a stand, or break our backs in the process? In making the future, will we break with the past? Make it or break it? We need new ideas, challenging ideas, ideas backed with evidence and experience, ideas built on wisdom and insight. Make or break? The choice is ours, the ideas are ours. The unique dynamic of the Adelaide Festival of Ideas is an essential path to our future.