The Engelsberg Seminar 2018
June 14th – 16th 2018 at Engelsberg Ironworks, Sweden
In A Program of Teaching and Learning the fifteenth-century humanist Battista Guarino writes:
Other animate creatures have powers innate to them, like the power of running in horses and flying in birds, but to mankind has been given the desire to know, which is also where the humanities get their name. For what the Greeks call paideia we call learning and instruction in the liberal arts. The ancients also called this huma-nitas, since devotion to knowledge has been given to the human being alone out of all living creatures.
Maybe Guarino is right in that the ‘desire to know’ is the most important feature of what makes us human. The idea is certainly deeply rooted in Western tradition and reflected in the Bible story of Adam and Eve as well as in the attempt by Descartes in the seventeenth century to find a foundation for knowledge. To strive to understand seems to be our painful destiny, and the only proof of being is that ‘we cannot doubt our existence while we doubt’.
This seminar will discuss and analyse the question of knowledge and information and its role in creating the in-dividual, cultures, and civilisations. On the first day we will ask ourselves how knowledge and information is pre-served and transferred in preliterate societies, and what we can learn from cultures that on the surface seem different to our own. We will examine the purpose religious myths have served in carrying knowledge over time and space, and consider what is lost when foundational stories fade away.
We will continue by investigating the knowledge-culture of Western civilisation. How was knowledge perceived and used in Roman times? And what role did non-authoritarian teachers and teachings play in creating the independent in-dividual during the early modern era in Europe? What hap-pened to the people who knew it all, the ‘monsters of erudi-tion’, the polymaths? And can their modern-day equivalents survive in an era of specialisation? And as our scientific knowledge has advanced, have ethics and moral integrity progressed with it?
The second day will focus on our ability to process, use and communicate information. We will investigate how hu-man cognition works and how our brain’s sixteen billion cortical neurons enable us to create language and abstract thoughts. Can human intelligence be replicated artificially, and what are the implications for humans in a world where we are outsmarted by machines? We will also discuss the problem of decision making from limited information when outcomes are a matter of life and death. What can we learn about the nature of information from the realm of intelli-gence and military strategy?
In the afternoon we will turn our attention to the new digital world we inhabit and its perils and possibilities. Has information technology delivered on its promise of a more democratic and freer society, or have we moved into an ‘ugly global village’? We also discuss how information travels, from the silk roads of the ancient world to modern information highways.
The conference will end with an examination of the sta-te of our universities and the public debate. Is a free and open exchange of knowledge and opinions still possible at our academic institutions, or have we created a new era of scholastic dogma and doctrine? How do we handle the increasing tension between a ‘cognitive elite’ and people who feel excluded from public debate and decision making? And are we paradoxically entering a dark age of information, or will our ‘desire to know’ once again.
The Origins of Knowledge
FRS, Professor of Evolutionary Biology, Uniersity of Reading
Lecture: The Origins of Knowledge and Innovation – You Are Not As Clever As You Think
PhD, President, Amazon Conservation Team
Lecture: Information and Uncontacted Tribes of the Amazon: How We Know What We Do Not Know
PhD, Independent Historian
Lecture: Is Modern Information Better Than Pre-Literate Knowledge?
PhD, University of Oxford
Lecture: Mythic Headlines, Epic Wikipedia: Spreading the News (and How to Use It) in Global Cultures
Pro-Vice Chancellor and Professor of Roman History and Archaeology, University of Sidney
Lecture: Measuring Knowledge and Fashioning the Past: The Roman Re-creation of Ancient Carthage
Former Fellow in Political Philosophy
Lecture: Knowledge Without Authority
Emeritus Professor of Cultural History, Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge
Lecture: ‘An Endangered Species’? The Polymath in the Age of Specialization
Journalist and Author
Lecture: Is there Ethical Progress in Science?
Associate Professor, Vanderbilt University
Lecture: The Human Advantage of Having Sixteen Billion Cortical Neurons – and How That is Still Not Enough
Director of Neuroscience Laboratory, Di Tella University
Lecture: Language: A Privileged Window into the Mind
MD, PhD, Barbro and Bernard Osher Professor of Integrative Medicine, Osher Center, Karolinska Institute
Lecture: Digital Information: From Words to Semantics
Knowing Your Enemy
Professor of Intelligence and International Affairs, Department of War Studies, King’s College London
Lecture: Reading the Russian Mindset: Lessons from the Cold War
Historian, Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Lecture: Disinformation in the Information Age
Lecture: The Other Side of the Hill
Chief of Army Staff, Swedish Armed Forces
Lecture: Knowing Your Enemy: Leadership and Decision-Making on Different Levels (A Practitioners View)
Addicted to Information
Nicklas Berild Lundblad
Dr., VP Public Policy and Government Relations EMEA, Google
Lecture: A Wealth of Information, Poverty of Attention and Organized Complexity
Science Journalist, Author and Entrepreneur
Lecture: Time to Regulate the Development of AI
Lecture: How to Fix the Future
Lecture: The Ugly Global Village: Human Nature and Social Media
Professor of Global History, University of Oxford
Lecture: When Information Travels – The Global Impact of Knowledge Exchange
S.J. Director and Associate Professor of East Asian Studies, Ricci Institute, University of San Francisco
Lecture: The Society of Jesus and its Eraly Modern Global Networks of Knowledge
Professor, London School of Economics
Lecture: Information Highways and Information Start ups
PhD, Senior Research Fellow in Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of Oxford
Lecture: Jihadist Media Strategies
The State of the University
Janne Haaland Matláry
Professor, University of Oslo and the Norwegian Command of War Studies, King’s College London
Lecture: When Two and Two make Five – The Vocation of the University in the Age of Subjectivism
Lecture: Academic Cultures and Explanatory Conflict
Writer, Policy Exchange
Lecture: The Overmighty Cognitive Elite and The Three Hs
Editor and Columnist, Spiked Magazine
Lecture: The Crisis of Enlightened Thought
The State of the Debate?
Editor, The Spectator
Lecture: Going Underground: The Intellectual Dark Web
Columnist, The Times, London
Lecture: Market Complexity and Making the Moral Case for Capitalism
Political Editor, The Economist
Lecture: The People Versus the Knowledge Elite
Watch the lectures on Axess TV