Para Limes

Future Explorations

Future Explorations

Para Limes plans to organize 12–15 exploratory conferences over a period of 5 years that explore a variety of themes, all relevant to the future of our societies, all underexplored in terms of the underlying complexity, questions and challenges and all to be discussed by world class thinkers.

The conference that was recently held in Stockholm on the “Illusion of Control” was the first of those explorations. The program will be updated yearly. You can read the last version here.

If you have any suggestions, please contact us.


To probe the future of our world through daring explorations.




Most progress of the human condition has been triggered by individuals with explorative minds and original ideas. They dared to take steps in the unknown and open new perspectives for humanity. As complex and existential threats to humanity have started to destabilize our societies and cloud our views, the world, more than ever, needs explorers.


Para Limes was set up to invigorate explorations in a complex world and to be a platform from which explorations are launched, new approaches to burning questions are investigated and involvement of key stakeholders in addressing those burning questions is built.


Practically this means Para Limes brings together the best thinkers (world-class scientists, visionary politicians and policymakers, leaders from industry and NGO’s) to bridge the gap between science and society, or cover the realm between theory, applications and practice.


Para Limes means “Beyond Boundaries”, implying that its activities are not limited by methods or disciplines, national, institutional or political boundaries, but by imagination only.


True to this meaning, Para Limes will organize its activities anywhere in the world where there is interest to explore the future in search of unknown questions that must be answered.

Major steps to improve the human condition have been triggered by individuals with explorative minds and original ideas. They dared to take steps into the unknown and open new perspectives for humanity. The enormous advances in our understanding of nature (around us and within us) and the ways to use that understanding for the betterment of humanity were induced by such explorers. When this exploratory mindset was leading there seemed to be no limits in our imagination in terms of improving the quality of life, health and wellbeing in a peaceful and flourishing society. After exploration, exploitation followed. Now exploitation is leading, and the limits of our world are becoming painfully visible1.

As complex and existential threats to humanity have started to destabilize our societies and cloud our views, the world, more than ever, needs explorers.

Para Limes was set up to invigorate explorations in a complex world and to be a platform from which explorations are launched, new approaches to burning questions are investigated and involvement of key stakeholders in addressing those questions is shaped.

Practically this means Para Limes brings together the best thinkers (world-class scientists, visionary politicians and policymakers, leaders from industry, people from practice and NGO’s) to explore themes (either pressing or emerging) and identify challenges and questions that may be relevant to society (at a global level) but have not been adequately addressed by science, research or policy.

Through the experience and insights, it gained over the last 15 years, and as its network of extraordinary people (see Attachment C) grew while organizing its conferences, workshops and projects, Para Limes developed a highly effective approach to explore such themes, bridging the gap between science and society and covering the realm between theory, applications and practice.

Based on the results of these conferences, several of which were published in books2, Para Limes now proposes to organize 10–12 conferences over a period of five years that explore a variety of urgent themes, all relevant to the future of our societies, all underexplored in terms of the underlying questions and challenges and all to be discussed by world-class scientists, visionary politicians and policymakers, leaders from industry, people of practice and NGO’s.

1Exploitation largely killed the spirit of exploration. Counterintuitive as that may look, science, in its focus on reductionism to understand nature, contributed to the loss of such an explorative spirit.

2E.g., Disrupted Balance – Society at Risk (2018), Grand Challenges for Science in the 21st Century (2019) and Buying Time for Climate Action (2022), all published by World Scientific Publishing, Singapore.
The program objective is two-fold:
  • To bring to light lingering issues (problems and key questions) that will have to be addressed to enable the global society to cope with the challenges of the future and be able to recognize existential threats and prevent them from materializing.
  • To develop an independent and sustainable funding that allows exploration into lingering issues as described in the first objective.

The issues to be brought to light within the context of the first objective have a long-time horizon and address topics of great societal relevance. Such topics3 must be effectively addressed by experts from different scientific disciplines, backgrounds and societal stakeholders in a multi-disciplinary approach. They require analyses of broad themes that cover past, present, and future developments that have shaped and are shaping our world. They are identified through intensive interactions between world class scientists, visionary politicians and policy makers, leaders from industry, people of practice and NGOs, both as speakers for the conferences and as members of the audience.

The starting points for the second objective are the opportunity to foster the track record built by Para Limes since 2011 in developing high level meetings that yield the type of results pursued under objective 1 and the need for future and sustained identification and exploration of “new” lingering issues4.

Circle of Words

Years ago, a famous Israeli writer was asked in an interview on public radio: “What are the greatest moments that you experienced as a writer?”. He answered: “Every once in a while, I manage to catch within a circle of words an idea or thought that has no word yet. Those are the greatest moments in my life as a writer.”

3Like the topics mentioned in Annex C

4This includes the need to address these issues and come up with adequate answers and suggestions for societal impact and implementation
There are three key elements to the proposed program:
  • The basic concept of a conference
  • The flow of conferences
  • Building a stable and sustainable funding for conferences and explorations

The Basic Concept of a Conference

The key elements in the project plan are the conferences. Each conference focuses on a specific theme. A synopsis outlines this theme in a captivating way and is used both to interest potential speakers and attract a committed audience. Each conference is organized according to a format that allows the speakers ample time to fully present and argue their points of view and to allow for intensive discussions between the speakers and the audience, both formally and informally.

a. Synopsis

In the synopsis for a conference, the theme is defined in a way that challenges the imagination of both potential speakers and audience. Examples of such a synopsis are given in Annexes B and C.

b. The Choice of Speakers

A selection of speakers that meet the highest standards is essential for the success of the conference. That selection will be based on the relevance to the theme of a persons’ expertise and background, the persons’ quality as a speaker and his or her ability to listen, learn and interact with an open mind. Part of the selection process is an interview with each potential speaker, aimed at establishing his/her interest in the theme, the nature of his/her contribution and diversity and complementarity of speakers.

Listen and learn

In helping to prepare a positive setting for the establishment of Para Limes in 2004, John Holland conveyed his enthusiasm for the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) to a small group of Dutch professors. One professor asked: “If SFI is so fantastic, why is there only one such place in the US?” John answered: “About a thousand plus senior scientists in the US have Nobel Prize potential. That is the quality you need to make a place like SFI work. That, and the capability to listen and be genuinely interested to find out what top scientists from other disciplines have to offer. Only 10% of the best scientists have that capability. That limits the population from which SFI can draw to about one hundred plus senior scientists.”

c. Conference Format

Para Limes has developed a successful format for conferences that will be used in this project. That format entails three full days of discussions with 12 world class speakers and a committed audience. Each speaker has a time slot of 1.5 hours for his or her talk and discussions with the audience5. After each talk there is half an hour break, with coffee and other refreshments. So, each day will have four speakers, who will give in depth talks and have intensive interactions with the (invited) audience. There will be a lot of opportunities to interact with the other speakers.

d. Capturing Results

Proceedings with a summary of the presentations and the main results, open-access books, online videos of all presentations, reports on social media, public television, interviews in national newspapers and reports in international scientific journals to draw attention to the results and impact of the conferences.

e. Follow-up

Each conference will involve and mobilize potentially relevant stakeholders in society who are key to addressing the challenges and questions that might come up during the conference and who will help ensure implementation of the results and societal impact. Some of them will be invited as participants to the conference.

The Flow of Conferences

With this project, Para Limes aims at organizing two to three conferences per year.

The first conference will take place about one year after funding has been secured, the second half a year later. Then, on average, a new conference will be organized every 4–6 months. In total 12 conferences will be scheduled in a period of 5 years.

Typically, preparing for a conference from the inception of the theme to the actual conference taking place takes at least one year, but in general slightly more. Most of that time is needed to find and commit the speakers and to find an appropriate time slot that fits with the calendar of all speakers.

Para Limes focuses on themes with worldwide impact. Therefore, conferences will be organized in different places, all over the world. To keep that flow going, Para Limes will explore involvement of leading institutes (e.g. universities or research organizations) that might be interested in a particular conference and/or bring in specific expertise related to the topic of the conference. That involvement may include a major role in the organization of the conference, suggestions for speakers and location, and the mobilization of potential funders for the conference and local activities.

Building a funding base for future explorations

The 5-year period of this plan will be used to develop stable and sustainable long-term funding by a combination of institutional, private and public funders.

5 The audience at the conference meeting is limited to facilitate discussion; there is no limit as to the number of on-line participants.

Subscription to 12 World-Class Exploratory Conferences in 5 Years

The leading principle for funding the activities of Para Limes is subscription. We offer companies, non-profit organizations, and individuals, a subscription to participate in the upcoming exploratory conferences, free access to all material produced in past explorations and the right to suggest themes for new explorations. The subscription costs €2k/year for individuals, €4k/year for non-profit organizations and €10k and more for companies (size dependent).

The essence of Para Limes’ activities lies in its program of exploratory conferences.

The principle for establishing a stable funding basis for Para Limes lies in offering a broad range of explorations and in offering contributors to select and participate in the ones they see as most relevant for their organization while getting access to all the material produced in those conferences (video-material of presentations, books, publications in international journals).

Every year Para Limes will develop/ update a program of 12 exploratory conferences to be executed in the next five years.

At the present cost level, the average cost for one such conference is about €8k6. Including 6% inflation, the costs for 12 conferences over a period of five years would be roughly €1.4 million.

Subscription by Companies and Not-for-Profit Organizations

We intend to find at least 75 companies or not-for-profit organizations worldwide, who will subscribe to the activities of Para Limes. For companies, the price7 for such a subscription is €10K per year. For not-for-profit organizations, it is €4K per year. For that subscription Para Limes offers:
  • The right to delegate two people from their organization to actively participate in each of the exploratory conferences.
  • Access to video streaming of the conference for passive participation in each of the exploratory conferences.
  • Access to all the material that is generated before or during each of the conferences, such as videos, books, and articles.
  • The right to suggest themes for explorations in the future.

Subscription by Individuals

Individuals can subscribe to the activities of Para Limes for €2K per year. Each individual will have the right to:
  • Participate in each exploratory conference, actively or passively.
  • Access all the material that is generated before, during and after each of the conferences.
  • Suggest themes for explorations in the future.

6 The cost level of August 2022. At that time the value of the Euro and the US Dollar was roughly equal. In this note the Euro is used as unit of currency.

7 Given that minimum there are different levels of subscriptions possible, e.g. depending on the size of the organization and the level of active participation like the number of people be delegated to a conference.

Cost estimate for an average conference, to be held in a major European City

S/N Units of Costs
1 Average traveling cost per speaker 1,550
2 Average cost for one hotel night 200
3 Cost for dinner per person 90
4 Catering per person per day 30
Number of speakers 12
Number of Para Limes staff 2
Number of paying participants 100
5 Average costs of participation 150
6 Number of hotel nights per speaker 6
Number of hotel nights for staff 6
Number of dinners for speakers 4
Number of days catering 3
Organisation, based on 2 staff members for Para Limes
Travelling 1,000
Hotel 2,400
Dinner, etc. 14,400
7 Administrative costs 20,000
Other costs
8 Social event 2,500
9 Video recording 2,500
Transcription and editing book 5,000
S/N Notes
1 Calculation average traveling costs (economy class plus) per speaker: 1,550
Number of speakers from US 3
Number of speakers from Asia 3
Number of speakers from South Africa 100
Number of speakers from Europe 2
Number of local speakers 3
Average ticket cost from US – Amsterdam 2,000
Average ticket cost from Asia – Amsterdam 2,000
Average ticket cost from South Africa – Amsterdam 2,000
Average ticket cost from Europe – Amsterdam 500
2 Estimated costs (based on actual pricing as of May 2022) for one night at a 4-star hotel in Amsterdam
3 Estimated costs based on pricing in Amsterdam
4 Estimated coffee breaks and lunch
5 Total income based on 50 participants at €200, and 50 participants at €100 15,000
6 Two extra nights before the conference to recover from Economy (plus) class travel
7 Calculation of administrative costs 15,000
Selection of theme and speakers, based on 20 days at €400/day 8,000
Secretarial costs, based on an average of 2 days per week at €200/day 8,500
Administration and registration 3,000
Local costs per conference 3,500
Total 20,000
8 E.g. A concert by local musicians 2,500
9 All sessions to be recorded and posted on websites of host(s) and Para Limes 2,500
Costs for conference
Travelling speakers 18,600
Hotel speakers 14,400
Dinner speakers 5,760
Catering all participants 9,000
Organisational costs 24,840
Transcriptions 5,000
Total costs 77,600
Total income 15,000
Total to be funded 62,600
In this budget, the secretarial costs (note 6) is based on the following consideration: There will be 12 conferences over a period of five years. During this time, a secretary will be needed on average for 2 days a week for 50 weeks per year, which adds up to 500 days over a period of 5 years. During that period, secretarial costs are estimated to be €200/day. For the whole duration of the project, the secretarial costs will thus be €100. Divided over 12 conferences that amounts to €8,500 per conference.

Synopsis for “Disrupted Balance – Societies at Risk” 8

The central issues for the conference are the serious risks that our society runs if the balance in the systems that uphold it is disrupted. On a global and historical scale disruptions in such systems happen quite frequently. In fact, as one of the speakers will show, disasters with a small probability happen all the time. Therefore the conference is not about the probability that such disruptive events occur, but about the effects such disruptions may have on society.

The conference is meant to capture the attention of leaders who see risk not as an academic issue, but as something they have to deal with as part of their responsibilities in society. They need to think the unthinkable and anticipate disruptions in crucial systems in society and its effects on it.

In the conference, twelve eminent speakers will discuss in depth and with great authority the effects of disruptions in our food and water supplies, financial systems, trust in our science and governance systems, invasions in our cyberspace and the inescapable future of uncontrollable pandemics and its disruptive powers.

In a more general sense questions will be discussed like: How the risk of a disrupted balance will manifest itself in society and what resilience means in view of those risks? Finally, the relevance of historic cases of disrupted balances to managing our present-day society and its environment will be illustrated by answering the question Why did Angkor Wat collapse?”

The audience will be invited to include senior people from across the globe and especially from Singapore and East and South Asia who deal with risk as part of their responsibilities in society. The maximum number of people to attend is 200. Attendance is free.


Synopsis for “Removing Barriers to Buy Time”9

Many of even the best-conceived plans to bring about change are never executed or fail during execution because they do not address stumbling blocks inhibiting change. Efforts to address various threats associated with climate change are a prime example; they all face five common and interrelated stumbling blocks: finance, talent, bureaucracy, vested interests and political will.

Effective action plans that aim to mitigate the consequences of climate change require tactics for effectively overcoming these stumbling blocks. Such tactics, laying out specific steps to limit their impact, may buy us time to turn the tide on climate change and adapt to its consequences in better ways than through devastating droughts, famines, pandemics, refugees and wars.

In January, just before Covid-19 infected the globe, Para Limes organized a three-day workshop to set out key principles guiding such action plans. A short report of that workshop is attached. Since January the workshop participants held a number of Zoom meetings to prepare for the conference” Buying Time”, originally planned to take place in Penang in December 2020. This conference would initially focus on strategies in the areas of food, water, pandemics, and mass migration (the areas of expertise of the participants of the workshop). The Zoom discussions led to the rather sobering conclusion that whatever actions are planned in whatever area of concern, there is no chance to actually execute them unless the stumbling blocks mentioned in the first paragraph are effectively dealt with.

The five categories of stumbling blocks all have strong institutional bases. Bottom-up actions may seem to be one way around them, but once the potential of such actions grows, the need to involve national and international institutions grows as well.

The purpose of the webinar Removing Barriers to Buy Time is to explore and define principles for overcoming these stumbling blocks on the way to formulating explicit and effective action plans.

8 This conference took place in December 2016. The results have been published in the book, Disrupted Balance – Society at Risk (2018), published by World Scientific Singapore.

9 This webinar took place in February 2021. The results have been published in: Buying Time for Climate Action (2022), published by World Scientific Singapore.

Illusion of Control10

This conference is about the illusion of control. Most humans live with such illusions as if they are reality. They perceive to be in control of the real world, but see only a reduced reality, that, in time, space and complexity, is only a minuscule part of an infinite world. That world is loaded with an immeasurable number of connected cause-and-effect relationships, that all, in some way, affect every individual on his planet.

To survive as an individual in that barrage of cause-and-effect relationships, to procreate, to build communities, to communicate, or to be part of nature, requires simplification. Throughout history, humans have simplified their world to get control over the supply of water and food, to protect themselves and to procreate. In that sense humans were never different from any other living creature that evolution produced.

But somewhere in the evolution of mankind we (as individuals and collectives) became aware of the context within which our lives play itself out, and we looked for ways to change and control that context. On the time scale of our planet that period of awareness and search for control is almost negligible in duration, but on the impact scale the control we thought we gained, has caused tremendous changes on our planet.

As the collective human impact becomes more visible, it becomes also abundantly clear that we humans (as individuals organizations or governments), have no control over the consequences of the change of context that we initiate(d) over time. Our control is illusion. Or more appropriately maybe, our illusions are in control. They create patterns of thought that entice us to believe that we can control the emergence of our future. It is time to think about our future as a context over the emergence of which we cannot have control.

The control illusion

At any time, a society is a collection of individuals with people that have ages between zero and “eighty plus”. Through stories told by their parents and grandparents some of the “eighty plus” people may have an “emotionally loaded” memory that goes back as far as a hundred years. In traditional societies where stories are passed on from generation to generation, that memory span may be much longer, but one should make a difference between the memory (and wisdom) embedded in a story and the active memory about events and control that is passed on from grandparent to parent to child. And of course, memory, like knowledge, is a strange thing. It builds up as one grows in age and experience, it mixes what happened recently with what happened a long time ago, it tends to deteriorate as we grow older and it disappears when we die, or rather, most of it disappears while some of it is reshaped and transferred to those that survive us. It illustrates that people and the societies they form are complex adaptive systems. What can the notion of control be in such systems, other than an illusion?

To land a man on the moon and let him return to earth safely requires control of all aspects relevant to the journey. For technical aspects this can be attained using findings of physical sciences that are expressed in universal laws, empirical evidence, natural constants and testable hypotheses. However, these findings are real within the context of a laboratory only. There the real (non-linear) world is reduced to a simple (linear) one from which factors that may disturb experiments and observations are excluded. Within such a laboratory we can have control, because we reduce complex to complicated. When we send a man to the moon, we create the conditions of such a laboratory as much as possible, even to the extent that the crew that we select must fit a set of criteria within which we can be sure that their behavior will not endanger the safety of the journey.

10 This conference is expected to take place in the spring of 2023

Ageing: Impact of Time

Historians have shown that civilizations, cultures, empires, societies come and go. Aging is universal, even to the universe. Yet we treat ageing as something unique to people and to our times. We search for eternal youth and tend to ignore the cycle of life that we, civilizations, our earth, everything around us, are part of. What does this mean for the narrative about the meaning of our lives, for the day to day care for how we look and care, for the impact of mankind on earth, for the harmony between young and old in societies that are more and more driven by technologies, that force a continuously changing perspective on us?

Ageing is universal and ubiquitous: animate or inanimate, real or virtual, small or large, everything is marked by the passage of time. We have seen an evolution of species, including mankind, cultures, civilizations and empires. Civilizations and empires emerged and collapsed and it seems that the more powerful the empire and the longer its existence, the larger the turmoil after its disappearance. As human beings, we live longer and in better health conditions than before thanks to modern health care. While in the old days the age distribution in and the dynamics of societies were more or less in harmony over long periods of time, in our time such harmony seems to be lost. In the past, old age was venerated as a beacon of wisdom, a blessed period at the end of one’s life. Only few reached that period. Nowadays, many people do and societies’ perspective on ageing has changed. Society spends billions of dollars with almost exponential increase to extend the life expectancy of its people; yet a clear answer as to why spending for extended life should prevail above spending for other values, becomes more and more compelling, as other societal challenges like climate change and good education to bridge the gap between well-educated and less-educated people are pressing.

Increasingly, there is a perception of inter-generational unfairness as the economic burden of maintaining an ageing population falls on the following generation. In the past, in Western societies, it has generally been assumed that each generation will have an improved life in comparison with previous generations. This is no longer true and this adds to the perception of inter-generational unfairness.

Today, governments perceive the costs and societal implications of an ageing population as a “challenge” that has to be tackled. On the surface, economic arguments are brought to bear, relating to the costs of treating or caring for the effects of biological ageing. But human ageing is much more than just biology and medicine. The social reality of ‘ageing’ entangles a variety of societal factors (economic, social, political, cultural) and personal elements (psychological, philosophical, religious, creative/artistic). How do they interact and how do they affect the time constants of the dynamics for the evolution of civilisations, states and human subjects?

The considerations above raise many questions that will be addressed in the conference. Can we get a grasp on the complexity of interactions that underlie the evolution of societies?

What is the minimal set of conditions for robust, stable and vital societies where people feel happy? Can we move the discussion beyond the “challenge/burden” perspective and (re)envision ageing as a source of richness, wisdom and opportunities? Can we shape, as individuals and as a society, a path that improves the well-being and opportunities for people of all ages? And, with an eye to the future, can we develop perspectives that prepare the younger people for a longer and happy life? At the same time, can we make death, as the end of the cycle of life, a natural part of our perspective.

The Value of Information

Ecclesiastes, Chapter 1 Verse 9: The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

If Ecclesiastes is right, all new ideas are built out of old ones. Then creativity is synonymous with rearranging information. Access to information is gained through research. Research in this context means: reading, listening, observing, experimenting, testing, feeling,…

If Ecclesiastes is not right and there are new things under the sun, then how does one recognize such things? By comparing what looks new to what is known. The new is than seen as a deviation from the old. Recognizing the new, but also creating the new, results from a projection of already existing information. Thus, access to information is crucial to recognize something as being new. Access to information is gained through research

But what actually is information? One can see information is the potential, embedded in the most elementary of particles to form (with other particles) atoms, molecules, proteins, living beings, intelligence, consciousness, culture and religion, continents and oceans and any other arrangement (organization) of those particles that we recognize as being unique. Information in this sense is nothing more, or less, than the sum-total of everything. Information is the potential to make emergence happen.

Knowledge is the capability (power) to arrange information. “There is nothing new under the sun”. That is the same as saying that the sum-total of everything is a constant. “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is which shall be done” That is the same as saying the (re)-arrangement within the sum total of things does not result in anything new. That does not make (re)-arranging things less interesting. One reason for that is that knowledge gets a meaning through it. Knowledge is the capability to (re)-arrange information.

Only the manifestation is subject to change. If (re)-arrangements within the sum-total of everything only lead to other manifestations of the same information, like potential energy and kinetic energy are two manifestations within the same total amount of energy, than that manifestation remains as the only thing that can change.

Arrangements and manifestations. The potential energy enclosed in an artificial lake produces no electricity. That is done with the kinetic energy of the water that moves through turbines. Electrical energy is also energy, be it in a manifestation that makes it easy to transport and use. In some sense it is a higher form of energy, with which gold can be melted, trains can be powered, light created, and messages communicated.

Insight. What counts for energy and mass, counts, mutatis mutandis, for information. Information can only “do something” if it is mobilized. Think of the information embedded in our genes, such as manifested in blue eyes and black hair. A bit of a charmer mobilizes this information to find a partner. Only information that is moved can be brought in a higher form. It requires insight to know which form to use in a given context.

Based on the above one can argue that value gets meaning through three basic concepts:
  • Information: the potential enclosed in the smallest of particles, to arrange (combine) itself with other particles into something recognizable to us.
  • Knowledge: the human capability (power) to free that potential.
  • Insight: know how and where that knowledge can be applied to.

According to Wikipedia the value of information is the amount a decision maker would be willing to pay for information prior to deciding11.

In Darwinian evolution, the value of information is directly related to the potential this information provides organisms to explore their surroundings and to survive in a changing environment through ecological fitting12.

These two approaches to value information seem incompatible, one referring to the linear world of monetary transactions, the other to the complex adaptive systems of survival.

And yet, as the ecosystems on our planet break down under the weight of linear human interventions, we need to find ways to use the characteristics of its complexity for the continuous survival of the technology-based world that is built on it and that we, humans have come to depend on.

Starting from the approach to information given in the text-block above, this conference aims to explore such ways and to identify key questions that must be addressed if humanity is to advance in harmony with the ecosystems that support it.


12 Agosta, S.A. and D.R. Brooks.(2020) The Major Metaphors of Evolution; Darwinism Then and Now. New York: Springer.

Unused Potential, Exploration, Exploitation

Explorers focus on exploration. Exploiters exploit what explorers find. When exploration is leading, there seems to be no limits to our world. Now exploitation is leading, and the limits of our world are becoming painfully visible.

Natural selection reinforces exploitation when conditions are stable, exploration when conditions change, and new exploitation when new stable conditions are found13.

The ability to survive indefinitely in a world that is always changing relies on being flexible enough to survive in less-than-ideal conditions. Having the potential to move from unsuitable to suitable conditions is more important than being the fittest in any set of conditions.

Our world is always changing. It now seems to go through a period of rapid and destabilizing change, partly because of human interactions with natural systems on which they depend.

Those natural systems are subject to Darwinian evolution. Darwinian systems survive, and sometimes thrive, in an uncertain world by using the evolutionary potential stored within individual organisms and the ecosystems they form.

A dominant feature of Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) is emergence. Emergence manifests itself in properties that cannot be predicted from the characteristics of the individual components (agents) of a system, like wetness of water cannot be seen in individual water molecules, or the consequences of interference with a CAS that cannot be predicted by studying individual components of the system.

Although not the same as evolutionary potential, emergence is a phenomenon that points to an unused potential within complex adaptive systems. Unused in the sense that it might provide humanity with enough flexibility to survive in less-than-ideal conditions.

What is this potential? How can we explore it? Can we explore it so that we can exploit it?

Can traditional Eastern approaches (with a focus on patterns, context, balance, whole systems) and Western approaches (with a focus on reductionism, linear cause and effect relationships, absolute truths and generalization) reinforce each other for the benefit of mankind? (E.g. to prevent crises instead of fighting them at a much higher cost?

If so, how can that be done? This conference will explore these questions and venture to identify key issues that need to be addressed.

Exploration and exploitation

Throughout the ages explorers have ventured, discovered and opened up new fields of human endeavor and understanding, adding new riches, diversity, creativity and opportunities to society. Those explorers, from Xu Fu who explored Japan in the 3rd century BC, to Columbus and Vasco Da Gama, explored most of the world, as we know it. Their spirit of exploration dominated the renaissance, setting a new stage for the development of arts and philosophy. It then spilled over into the enlightenment that brought us knowledge about the laws of nature and set the stage for the industrial revolution and everything that came with it.

13 ibid

The Power of Combinations

Compared to the vast amounts of knowledge about the components of systems14 of which we are part, there is very little scientific knowledge at the level of the systems themselves.

We do not understand why such systems behave and evolve as they do. We cannot predict how and when a system will respond to an innovation or change that man wants to introduce or that occurs spontaneously. And as we lack such basic knowledge, we cannot devise plans for controlled system changes — we even don’t know in which circumstances such changes would be possible. None of the disciplinary sciences, however successful in their search to understand the individual components of complex systems, have either the concepts or the insights to move to the system level.

During the last decade it has become abundantly clear that those major systems are under heavy pressure. The effects of human intervention on a component level threaten our major systems. We urgently need new theories, concepts and ideas to understand these systems as a whole and be able to search for solutions based on insights at a system level. This asks for bold thinking and bold science to be pursued at the highest level and with great imagination.

As has been shown time and again, there is tremendous power in new combinations15.

Often, already when new combinations are explored, new ideas and concepts spark through which insight is gained in the systems that we live in and depend on.

We need to free that power by creating organizational settings that provide conditions for top level scientists, philosophers, artists and people of practice to explore the boundaries of their trade. Settings that allow broad views and agendas that go far beyond individual disciplines, agendas and time horizons.

This conference aims to explore settings where new combinations can be explored and developed, and its power released.

Disciplinary Science

As disciplinary science led to its classical inventions, it also changed the systems we live in, in ways that were not intended, predicted, or understood. So, while we can apply technology to our health, our food, our mobility, our use of energy, our entertainment, our communication, our safety, our trading arrangements, or our wars, we do not understand its effects on the evolution, growth, degeneration, and death of the natural, social and artificial systems we depend on. We don’t have a theory, other than Darwinian evolution, to lead our explorations into this jungle of interacting systems.

14 We refer to the complex systems that are directly relevant to our existence like municipalities, mobility systems, climate and ecosystems, political systems, water and energy systems or large-scale technical systems like communication systems and computer networks.

15 Combinations of scientific disciplines, cultures, styles, modes of operation, etc.

What May All This Point To?

We assume that within his lifespan an individual human goes through all the steps in the cycle that starts with his natural birth and ends with his natural death. Each of those steps is closely tied to biology, from the fast development of learning neural networks in his early years to losing memory in his old age. We also assume that the average lifespan of an individual human is 80 years. That may not matter much for the key questions to be identified in this conference, but it may matter later in the discussions about those key points. Therefore we make that assumption explicit.

Center of the universe

Every person is the center of his universe. His universe reflects the phase of life that he is in, the spirit of time that he lives in, the day-to-day events that he deals with and any other issue that come to his attention. He lives his life day by day, impression by impression. Every day in the 80 years in which his life moves for birth to death, everything refers to him. He is always the center of his universe; history and future always start with him. His perspective changes with age but is always his.

Age is a key parameter. It is an indicator how far one is in one’s biological development and accumulation of knowledge16 and it tells us what still will develop (biologically) and what one can know from the past and what not.

Why is this relevant? Because knowledge over time is knowledge accumulated in life, in stories, and in books17. Each person starts with zero knowledge at birth and when he dies the knowledge that he accumulated during his life dies with him. As he grows in years, the knowledge he can use changes, depending on how far he has developed biologically and on what he has learned. When he dies, the (explicit) knowledge he learned from books and stories remains. All the other (tacit) knowledge fades away.

Humans spend a large part of their life being educated or educating. Language is key to this.

Language is acquired over time.  As with knowledge, each person starts with zero language at birth and when he dies, his language dies with him. In between, his language develops based on his biological development, the environment he grows up in, and the knowledge he acquires through his education and experiences in life. This means that from the point of view of biology and the development of language there is always a gap of one generation between the language of a parent and his child18.

Older people (can) have an active memory of the past and may still have a memory of what they experienced when they had the age of their children. Their children can have no active knowledge of the years that their parents lived before they were born, other than the stories told by their elders19. These stories are told in the language of the parents. That language embeds biological developments and knowledge that children will only have when they have the age of their elders. It is only at that time that they can fully understand what their elders told them a generation ago20.


There are roughly eight billion people on our planet, aged between zero to eighty years. They speak roughly 7100 languages in 195 countries. The five most spoken languages in the world by natives (in millions) are Mandarin (1117), Hindi (615), Spanish (534), English (379), and French (280). The language most people in the world can speak to some extent is English (1132). Most of the decisions in the international bodies on our planet are taken and subsequently communicated by people 45 years old or older.

The phenomenon of man (TdC, 1955)

[When travelling through nature and observing] we are inevitably the center of perspective of our own observation. [..]

It is tiresome and even humbling for the observer to be thus fettered, to be obliged to carry with him everywhere the center of the landscape he is crossing. But what happens when chance directs his step to a point of vantage (a crossroad or intersecting valleys) from which not only his vision, but things themselves, radiate? In that event the subjective viewpoint coincides with the way things are distributed objectively, and perception reaches its apogee. The landscape lights up and yields its secret.

You see. That seems to be the privilege of man’s knowledge.

Ah, that is what he meant!

Parents who want to transfer the lessons they learned in life to their children assume that the language they use do transfer their messages to their children. Yet, often that message is merely registered, but not understood, because it is communicated in a language that is one generation ahead in development compared to the language of the kids. Sometimes, when the kids have bridged that generation, and still remember the message of their parents, they will recognize and say or think: “Ah, that is what he meant!”

Good Old Times

The “good old times” that a seventy-year-old person lived through cannot be known to his grandchildren. They live in a time that will be their “good old times” sixty years hence. By that time the “good old times” of the grandparent has withered into near oblivion. Some stories may be remembered, but in a fading context.

What may this all point to?

What all this may point to will be the theme for this conference. What may it mean that the body of explicit knowledge grows (as it is not influenced by the death of individuals), while the body of tacit knowledge (more or less) remains the same (as it largely disappears with the death of the individual who has this tacit knowledge) and the language to transfer lessons (such as tacit knowledge) from generation to generation is insufficient? How might this imbalance manifest itself, what could be the consequences, how could the cause for this imbalance be addressed and how the consequences be dealt with? What would that mean for education, for governance, for addressing the existential problems humanity is facing? What does the lack symmetry between what elders can know about the thoughts and perspectives of youngsters and what youngsters can know about the perspectives and accumulated wisdom of the elders mean for the value of decisions that will affect the world and the future of the youngers much more than the world and future of the elders?


Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre (1955), The Phenomenon of Man, reprint (2002) by Perennial, page 32 etc.

Pöppel Ernst, and Bao Yan, Three modes of knowledge

16 We distinguish between two different modes of knowledge: explicit knowledge that can be taught, learned or communicated through books and stories, intuitive or tacit knowledge that can only be acquired (learned) by living and doing. There is at least a third kind of knowledge (Pöppel and Bao), knowledge that is directly related to what we see (pictural knowledge).

17 To a large extent the biological development of a person and his cultural predisposition determine the kind and amount of knowledge that he can acquire and accumulate.

18 The length of such a generation will differ from culture to culture and from country to country. We will assume that it anywhere between 20 and 35 years.

19 Parents and their contemporaries (like family and friends)

20 This does not count for the explicit knowledge from books and stories, but it does count for experience and wisdom that is acquired while living.

The Trust Bridge Between Children and Grandparents

From ancient times on (1 million or more years ago), elders were valued for knowing things and for teaching what they knew to the youngsters while the adults were busy with their daily lives. Drawings of animals in the back of the caves, where the grandkids and grandparents could be safe while parents foraged and hunted, testify to that. There has always been a natural trust bridge between grandparents and grandchildren along which narratives, knowledge and wisdom were passed on. Can that trust bridge be mobilized to address serious problems in society?

A Good Life

Throughout history all major changes in societies have “swept over” the masses of individuals (populace) that inhabited the world. Members of the populace were directly affected by those changes (enriched by it, impoverished by it, enslaved by it, brutalized by it, or killed by it). Yet, whatever the changes, be it wars, renaissance, enlightenment, dynasties, or economic systems, the life of individuals went on during and after. The context within which they live (such as culture, economic situation and climate) may change, but does what constitutes a good life, change as well?

A few years ago, I visited one of the townships near Cape-town in South Africa. What drove me there I cannot say for certain: curiosity was part of it, and a sense that I wanted to see myself what misery apartheid had sown upon black people. I was totally surprised by what I observed: people with pride, seemingly enjoying life, their life. Looking at the miserable circumstances in which they lived, I began to wonder what, in the heart and mind of an individual, makes his/her life worth to live? Or, given the context of life and equating “worth to” with “good”: What is a good life? Or, in terms of philosophy: “What matters?” (1).

Many things do, of which balance is a central one. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), balance is central to well-being (2):
  • Emotional and physical balance
  • Self-balance: self-correction and returning to balance
  • Balance with the environment: Coping with the environment and live in accord with time and seasonal changes (live in accord with the patterns of Yin Yang and the Dao).

The latter seems an excellent starting point for “a just and sustainable future where human dignity can flourish”, or “a society in which humans live in harmony with each other and their environment”.

A second central thing that matters is the community an individual lives in, particularly its strength and the position the individual holds in it. One may assume that that position changes with the age of the person, but so does the sense of what constitutes a good life.

A third key thing that matters, is the strength of the internal moral compass that steers individuals in their lives. That, no doubt, is a function of strength of family relations and the moral strength of the community a person is part of, but part of it is character, or the way a person’s DNA expresses itself in a given context.

These three key things (issues) that matter, are qualitative and related.

And then what matters is the difference between “objective” conditions for a good life and “what matters for the person” who lives a good life.

We surmise that a good life depends on personal characteristics and day-to-day living conditions, not on philosophical constructs or abstractions. That what constitutes a good life may not be quantifiable in objectively measurable qualities.

Yet, “progress” of humanity is largely measured in the effects that science (in its broadest sense) and the changes made possible by it, have on the life of individuals. But are the derivatives of modern science, its technologies, or system changes, relevant for a good life? If so, to what extent? When considering what constitutes a good life, we may focus on wrong metrics such as measures for happiness, income, wealth, or pleasure (5).

Governments striving for the betterment of life for its citizens relate, to a large extent, on measurable quantities that are derived from ideologies and its underlying theories and abstractions. Maybe “progress” or “striving for the betterment of life by improving the values of measurable quantities” is irrelevant for a good life.

The conference

The purpose of the conference is:
  • To exploit if the central issues mentioned before (balance, community, internal moral compass) are really at the core of what people around the world perceive as a good life? Are there more such qualitative issues that people see as essential for a life worth living and that are independent of culture, material circumstances, and the basic conditions for life (food and water)? If so, how are they related?
  • To exploit what ways can be conceived for governments (or other collectives that work for the betterment of people) to influence those qualitative issues (that do not focus on values of measurable quantities). In other words, can governments strengthen the three aspects mentioned before of balance, the strength of communities, and conditions for developing a moral compass, to help citizens attain a good life?

Notes and references
  • Derek Parfit (2011,2017), On what matters, Oxford University Press
  • Wenqing Zhao (2018): Well-being in the philosophy of Traditional Chinese medicine. Talk given at Capstone conference in St Louis, May 22-24, 2018, within the context of the Happiness and wellbeing project.
  • Disrupted Balance- Society at Risk (2018), World Scientific Publishers, Singapore
  • Richard Wirth et all (2015), Storying Humanity, narratives of culture and society, Interdisdiplinary Press
  • Amitai Etzioni (2018), Happiness is the wrong metric.
  • Buying Time for Climate Change, exploring ways around stumbling blocks (2021), World Scientific Publishers, Singapore

Dare to Think

With hard work, a lot of contemplation and a stroke of genius, Kant found a middle way between dogma and skepticism. Kant’s work was truly “enlightened” because it avoided these two principal avenues of blindness.

The digital world, as it developed in the last 40 years, blinds humanity because the tremendous amounts of data it produces blocks its view, while the preselection and organization of these data by the big and uncontrolled companies undermine an independent basis for skepticism. We need to regain space for independent thinking. We need to revitalize to dare to think.

Complexity Economics

In 2018, Brian Arthur and I planned a workshop on Complexity Economics workshop. It was to be hosted by the Institute for Advanced Sciences (IAS) in Amsterdam and Para Limes@NTU. The idea was to have open discussion meetings (no presentations) with the small group on the first two days and to have a larger group involved on the last day, with a few presentations. It promised to be an historic workshop with 10 of the top people in the world, until NTU withdrew its support at the last minute. We had to cancel!

However, the idea to have this workshop has not died. In fact, many of the ten confirmed participants have indicated that they will participate if the workshop takes place at another time and another place.

What If There Were No Universities?

To a large extent, in the present time, the pursuit of science takes place in universities. But suppose there were no universities, and suppose that all the knowledge mankind has ever collected and generated is somehow accessible, would we invent universities to make this knowledge available to address the problems humanity faces? What should be the mission of those universities, and what role would science play in such universities?

In looking for answers to these questions, one should consider the nature of the problems dealt with by science, the knowledge needed to address those problems, the gap between the two, the need for inter-disciplinarity and the need to educate the leaders of the future, and finally, the boundaries of scientific knowledge.

The Impact of Covid

A development, which affects the position of universities is related to recent technological developments regarding on-line video and the surge in on-line teaching facilities due to the COVID-crisis. Until recently, a typical university was a place/campus where students and scholars met for teaching, training, research and discussions. It was the physical place with all the necessary advanced facilities for teaching and research that was the sparkling drive for new ideas, with coffee machines and bars as meeting places for inspiration and exchange of ideas. But what if students can take courses on-line? What distinguishes the Ivy-leagues universities from colleges elsewhere in the world, if both can offer more-or-less similar courses?

Can We Buy The Future?

The last thirty plus years have seen an explosion of new technologies that find world markets in very short times. These technologies seem to be all pervasive and to determine the ways we produce and consume, view life, communicate and educate. This is accompanied by an explosive growth of wealth in the hands of few companies and individual who exploit these technologies and fund research into future technologies. There is a sense that this accumulation of wealth and these technologies will change our value systems and shape our futures in ways that are controllable by these and future technologies. But can we control the systems that provide the essential needs for humanity by money and technology? How are our value systems related to our stewardship of the natural resources like the fishes in the ocean? How do these new technologies effect our social and legal systems? Is the human mind capable of absorbing the ever-increasing speed of changes to which it is exposed? Can technology help with that and can we control the introduction of such technologies and the consequences thereof?

In other words, can we buy the future we want.

Some First Thoughts About “Nature of Change, Change of Nature”

  • The nature of change: evolution
  • Evolution changes nature, ecology, new species, new dynamics, patterns.
  • Changes in nature trigger employment of fitness space, triggers evolution, triggers changes in nature
  • Major evolutionary triggers: saturation and tipping points.
  • Evolution of brain size
  • Other types of changes after the appearance of men?
  • Evolution of the universe
    No purpose, randomness, physical laws?
    Boltzmann and entropy and Darwin
  • Cycles of 80 years as suggested in paragraph 6.6.4 start every year with newborns. A continuous sequence of new starts and overlaps of individual cycles without a continuous build-up of communication and lessons from cycle to cycle.
  • No build-up of (non-explicit) knowledge. Every person goes through its 80 years cycle and invents the eternal wisdom (wisdom that Seneca and Lao-Tse had, that Montaigne had, and that is continuously reinvented, but never passed on).
  • How does that relate to evolution and change?
    Is wisdom a product of millions of years of evolution?
    Are we just impatient? Evolutionary changes opposed to lessons learned a life time?

Book by Hugh Peyman: China’s change

Book by Dan Brooks: Lessons from Darwin

Weaver, W. (1948), “Science and complexity,” American Scientist, 36: 536-544

Hope and Realism

Synopsis in development.

The Economic Value of Knowledge

Synopsis in development.

Population, Representation, Democracy

Synopsis in development.

The Problems of Success

Synopsis in development.

Atoms, Patterns, and Change — East and West

Synopsis in development.

2007 – 2011: Conferences and workshops in Europe

2011 – 2014: Preparation and launch of Nanyang Complexity Institute

2011 – 2018: Conferences, workshops, lecture series and books


Book series Exploring Complexity

Volume 1: Aha… That is interesting, John Holland, 85 years young (2015)

Edited by: Jan W. Vasbinder

Published by World Scientific


Volume 2: Cultural Patterns in Neurocognitive Circuits, East West Connections (2016)

Edited by: Jan W. Vasbinder and Balázs Gulyás

Published by World Scientific


Volume 3: 43 Visions for Complexity (2017)

Edited by Stefan Thurner

Published by World Scientific


Volume 4: Selected papers by John Holland (2018)

Edited by Jan W. Vasbinder and Helena Gao

Published by World Scientific


Volume 5: Cultural Patterns in Neurocognitive Circuits, East West Connections – II (2018)

Edited by: Balázs Gulyás and Jan W. Vasbinder

Published by World Scientific


Volume 6: Disrupted Balance – Society at Risk (2018)

Edited by: Jan W. Vasbinder

Published by World Scientific


Volume 7: Grand Challenges to Science (2018)

Edited by: Jan W. Vasbinder, Balázs Gulyás and Jonathan Sim

Published by World Scientific


Volume 8: Buying Time for Climate Change, Exploring Ways around Stumbling Blocks (2021)

Edited by Jan W. Vasbinder and Jonathan Sim

Published by World Scientific


Volume 9: Fit for Purpose? Futures of Universities (2022)

Edited by Jan W. Vasbinder and Jonathan Sim

Published by World Scientific


Para Limes Initiatives resulting in books

The Sydney Brenner lectures (2018)

Edited by Terrence Sejnowski

Published by World Scientific.


10-on-10: The Chronicles of Evolution (2018)

Edited by Shuzhen Sim and Benjamin Seet

Published by Wildtype books.


The W. Brian Arthur lectures (2018)

to be published

More is Different (2012), Conference

Geoffrey West — Complexity and transdisciplinarity: Science for the 21st century

Sander van der Leeuw — Complex systems theory, sustainability and innovation

Albert László-Barabási — Network science: From structure to control

Emma Hill — The dynamic surface of the earth

Atsushi Iriki — The brain at the interface of evolution and society

Stan Gielen — Complexity in the brain: emergent behaviour from complex interactions within and between neurons

Steve Lansing — Did clouds or butterflies propel the last great human immigration

Sydney Brenner — Is administration necessary?

Luis Bettencourt — Does the individual matter in complex systems?

Yehuda Cohen — The Complex social living of microbes

Brian Arthur — The economy, how it emerges and evolves

Will Steffen — Governing complexity in the Anthropocene


A Crude Look at the Whole (2013), Conference

Murray Gell-Mann — A crude look at the whole: A reflection on complexity

Robert Axelrod — A theory of meaning

Helga Nowotny — Curiosity, innovation and complexity

Kristian Lindgren — Land-use, economy and complexity

John Holland — Signals and boundaries

Douglas H. Erwin — Diversity and repetition

Ying-Yi Hong — A dynamic constructivist approach to culture

Peter M. A. Sloot — A complex world from a virus’ point of view

Simon Levin — Collective phenomena, collective motion, and collective action in ecological systems

Johan Rockström — Resilience for human development in the Anthropocene

Wang Xian Feng — Isotope chemistry, climate change and the fate of the Chinese dynasties: Implications for the future of Asian societies

Peter Ho — A crude look at governance and complexity by a former civil servant


Complexity and Governance (2013), Workshop

Robert Axtell — Self-organization, spontaneous order and emergent governance: under what conditions are bottom up mechanisms realizable

Sander van der Leeuw — Resilience and sustainability: Science and policy

Douglass Carmichael — Human complexity

Roland Kupers — Laissez-faire activism: the complexity frame for policy

Herawati Sudoyo — Complexity and biosecurity: Molecular detection and emerging threats

Petter Braathen — Governing in the face of paradox: practical application of complexity theory

Chan Heng Chee — Future Governance in Singapore

Orit Gal — Operating in a complex world – from retrospective to prospective coherence

Julia Watson — Landscape architecture without landscape architects



Hidden Connections (2014), Conference and launch of the Complexity Institute

Guest-of-Honor, Peter Ho — Launch of complexity institute

Doyne Farmer — An evolutionary view of technological progress

Martin Rees — From Big Bang to biospheres—and beyond

Adam Kahane — How to collaborate to transform complex social systems

Chiu Chi-Yue — Psychological reactions to culture mixing

Albrecht von Müller — From rationality to reason

Arieh Warshe — Unravelling the complexity of biological functions by computer simulation

Ricard Solé — Towards the major transitions in synthetic evolution

Staffan Kjelleberg — Microbial biofilms – A highly complex default mode of life

Ricardo Hausmann — Collective know-how

William S-Y Wang — Phase transitions in language evolution

Brian Uzzi — Atypical combinations in scientific impact


Emerging Patterns (2015), Conference

Atsushi Iriki — How human intelligence may have emerged

Balázs Gulyás — Emergent evolutionism and the brain-mind problem

Luciano Pietronero — New metrics for economic complexity: measuring the intangible growth potential of countries

Roland Fletcher — The structure of emerging cultural patterns: 100,000 BP to the present

David Christian — Complexity and big history

Sander van der Leeuw — Are we part of the solution or part of the problem?

Tim Hunt — Switches and latches: The control of cell division

Tor Nørretranders — Commonities and the complexity of everyday life

Brian Arthur — Complexity and the shift in Western thought

Ben Shedd — Making the strange familiar and the familiar strange

Stefan Thurner — Emergence of a comprehensive understanding of scaling patterns in nature

Ada Yonath — Beauty, symmetry, complexity, origin of life & species specificity in antibiotics resistance

Silent Transformations (2016), Conference

Douglas Robertson — Computation and the transformation of the sciences and civilization

Gideon Rosenblatt — Machine-based collective intelligence and the human experience

Gregory Chaitin — Leibniz on Complexity

Tom Kirkwood — Dynamics of ageing: a silent transformation caused by “noise”

Eörs Szathmáry — How can evolution learn?

Georges Halpern — Environment and brains, food for thoughts

Helena Gao — Understanding the mind of bilinguals from their progression in linguistic behaviour

William Laurance — Silent Tsunami: Limiting the environmental impacts of tropical infrastructure

Geoffrey West — The silent threat of exponential growth and collapse

Krishna Savani — Increased variability as a silent transformation: Consequences for behavior and policy

Tone Bjordam — The nature of change

Steve Lansing — Islands of order

East of West, West of East (2016), Conference

Andrew Sheng — Divergence and convergence between Chinese and Western approach to change

Tonio Andrade — Divergences and convergences in East and West: A global historical perspective

Helena Gao — Constraints of language on thinking and behaviour

Atsushi Iriki — Cultural differences as opportunities for collaboration in healthcare and medicine

Georges M. Halpern — Fusion cuisine

Bilahari Kausikan — The Individual and the Community: Managing Multiculturalism in Eastern and Western political systems

Lisa Raphals — Perspectives on ambiguity

Panel discussion — The role of Singapore in bridging East and West


Disrupted Balance, Society at Risk (2016), Conference

Peter Ho — Societies at risk, taming black elephants and hunting black swans

Kerry Sieh — Our low likelihood/high risk hurdle: Geohazard examples

Tim Benton — Food systems and their fragility in a global world

Séan Cleary — Governance at risk

Shashi Jayakumar — Terrorism and cyber: Singapore’s security futures

Shella Ronis — Social resilience: Lessons from Herman Kahn

David Lallemant — Disrupting disaster – Choosing the risk trajectory of our cities

Daniel Brooks — Climate change and emerging disease crisis: an existential threat to technological humanity

Alexander Zehnder — Failing water management

Roland Fletcher — Climate change and disrupted cities: past and future

Nik Gowing — The imperative to thing the unthinkable

Andrew Sheng — Financial risk, global deal breaker

Grand Challenges to Science (2016), three days discussion with:

Brian Arthur, Sydney Brenner, Helga Nowotny, Martin Rees, Terrence Sejnowski, Eörs Szathmáry moderated by Tor Norretranders

Causality Reality (2017), Conference

George Rzevski — Managing organisation complexity: Practical methods and tools for adaptation and causality analysis

Stuart Kauffman — Beyond physics: The emergence and evolution of life

De Kai — Translating reality to causality

Michael Puett — Rethinking notions of causality and reality: Indigenous theories from China

James Bailey — Schooling for life K-12

Nick Obolensky — A military view

Ernst Pöppel — Trust as basis for the concept of causality: A biological speculation

Stefan Thurner — How complexity weakens causality – emerging dangers – and ways out

Ilan Chabay — Behavioral causality – Anthropocene reality

Peter Edwards — Technological myopia

Mile Gu — Quantum simplicity: Can quantum mechanics better isolate the causes of natural things?

Sydney Brenner — Causality in evolution

10-on-10, The Chronicles of Evolution (2017), series

Sydney Brenner — Why we need to talk about evolution

John Barrow — The origin and evolution of the universe

Jack Szostak — The origin of cellular life

Hyman Hartman — The origin of the genetic code and metabolism

Detlev Arendt — From nerve net to brain

Per Ahlberg — The origin and early evolution of vertebrates

Byrappa Venkatesh — Evolution and diversity of fishes

John Long — The early evolution of sex aa told through the fossil record

Francis Thackeray — Human evolution if Africa

Svante Pääbo — A Neandertal perspective of the human genome

Terrence Sejnowski — Evolving brains

Atsushi Iriki — A presage of Anthropocene: how the primate brain and its learning capacity co-evolves with the environment

Tecumseh Fitch — The biological evolution of the human capacity for language

Nick Enfield — The evolution of language

Roland Fletcher — Hominin cultural evolution: pattern and process over 4 million years

Steve Lansing — The challenge of the Anthropocene

Brian Arthur — The emergence of technology in human history

Sander van der Leeuw — The evolution of innovation

Helga Nowotny — A humble view from inside evolution

Stefan Thurner — Why it could make sense to understand how evolution works

Sydney Brenner — The neutral clock for the history of life

Eörs Szathmáry — Difficult questions about evolution

Gerd Müller — Towards an extended evolutionary synthesis

Sydney Brenner lectures (2017)


Complexities of time (2018), Conference

Geoffrey West — The emergence of a universal time in living systems from cells to cities

Douglas H. Erwin — The tempos of evolution and the complexities of deep time

Helga Nowotny — Timescapes of complexity

Semir Zeki — The enigmatic relationship between micro- and macro-perception

Aaron Maniam — Between chronos and kairos: Overlapping timeframes in public policy

Virg. van Wassenhove — Making sense of time in the human brain

Steve Lansing — Language and society in deep time

Brian Arthur lectures (2018)