Para Limes

Conference: Illusion of Control

Conference: Illusion of Control

Date: 15 – 17 May 2023

Venue: Auditorium of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Address: Lilla Frescativägen 4A, 114 18 Stockholm, Sweden


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 food and water, 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 appropriate maybe, our illusions are in control. They create pattern of thoughts 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.

Videos & Presentation Slides

Victor Galaz — Welcome Speech

Stockholm Resilience Centre (Stockholm University), and the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics (Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences)
Due to a technical error, this segment was not recorded.

Jan Wouter Vasbinder — Introduction to the Conference

Due to a technical error, this segment was not recorded.

Sander van der Leeuw – Illusion of Control
Professor Anthropology and Sustainability
Sean Cleary – The Failure of Collective Action, When We Need it Most
Chairman Strategic Concepts, Managing Director for Centre of Advanced Governance
Daniel Brooks – Darwinian Evolution: Neither Out of Control nor Under Control
Emeritus Professor – University of Toronto
Nick Obolensky – Redefining control in uncontrollable times
Chief Executive Officer, Complex Adaptive Leadership
Paul Larcey – Governing in the Anthropocene
Co-Director of the Global Systemic Risk Group at Princeton University
Helga Nowotny – In AI We Trust. Power, Illusion and Control of Predictive Algorithms
Emeritus Professor, Ex-President European Research Council
Gert van Santen – Fisheries Governance: Its search for the illusion of control
Ex-World Bank and FAO Fishery Specialist
Brian Arthur – The illusion of control in the economy
External Professor at Santa Fe Institute
Terry Sejnowski – ChatGPT and the Illusion of Intelligence
Francis Crick Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Liesbeth Feikema – Anti-corruption law as a fiction: The illusion of serving morality by controlling it through rules and regulations
Integrity and Integrality Expert, Darwin on the Job, Ethics Institute Utrecht University
Atsushi Iriki – Neurobiological mechanisms towards cognitive evolution of Homosapiens
Laboratory for Symbolic Cognitive Development, Riken, Japan
Andrew Sheng – Can we really control Open Giant Complex Systems?
Distinguished Fellow Asia Global Institute, Hong Kong

Jan Wouter Vasbinder & Prof. dr. Stan Gielen — Closing Remarks