Gerfried Stocker from Ars Electronica talking about ORIGIN - How it all begins, Festival 2011

Uploaded by ArsElectronica on 01.08.2011

Ö You could say that the initial motivation came from a few of these superb photos of CERN taken by Peter Ginter,
a German photographer whoís in the process of putting out a book about CERN together with Lois Lammerhuber,
who has worked together with us quite often in Deep Space.
Actually, I originally just wanted these amazing high-definition images for use in our Deep Space venue,
and then Lois Lammerhuber told me he was about to pay a visit to CERN and could set up a meeting right on the spot.
No sooner said than done!
The second step was taken in January of this year when the three of usóLois Lammerhuber, Franzobel and Iótraveled to CERN,
those two in conjunction with their book project and with me simply going along for the ride.
I considered it as sort of a nice treat to celebrate a new year.
And so we flew to Switzerland on January 5th.
We then spent three days at CERN, and it turned out that we were incredibly lucky to have shown up during precisely these first three days after Christmas/winter vacation when the equipment is shut down,
which meant we had the opportunity to go deep into the bowels of the infrastructure,
100 meters below ground into the detectors where the actual experiments take place.
And the mind-boggling things that I had seen in the original photos and that had initially gotten me so fired upóI was suddenly confronted by them in person, right up close.
Plus, we got super detailed and comprehensive explanations from top scientists on the staff there.
That was an extraordinarily impressive experience, which then pretty much unavoidably led to the conclusion that, actually, the only way to deal with this whole phenomenon would be to dedicate an entire festival to it.
Thus: not merely a presentation in Deep Space but the whole festival.
Of course, a totally decisive aspect in this connection was the absolute awe of actually beholding these gigantic pieces of equipment,
these 1,000-ton detectors as big as the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and especially in my case as someone whoís really into high-tech and science.
But, the truth be told, what triggered an even greater sense of enthusiasm was the spirit of CERNósimply to witness the powerful commitment with which hundreds, thousands of people there are working on a shared goal.
And that is one giant project that entails enormous financial outlays and lots of collaborating countriesó
20 European states and other lands and research institutions are participating in this joint endeavor that involves bringing a truly unimaginable amount of effort to bear to find out about something that is extremely small and actually utterly insignificantó
namely, whether the Higgs boson exists or not.
And when I say insignificant, I donít mean that disrespectfully but rather in the best possible sense, because it necessarily confronts us once again with having to consider what is beneficial, what is meaningful, what is profitable, and what do all these things actually mean.
Society at large has this basic orientation whereby whatever we do has to produce results relatively quickly.
And along comes this gigantic facility in which 10,000 people are working and the annual budget is a billion Swiss Francs, and all they do is search for a particle that exists for a millionth of a second.
And then you see these people bringing such boundless enthusiasm to this endeavor, you see people from all over the world working together here,
you experience the amazingly positive horizontal hierarchy of the collaboration.
And youíre totally surprised that you can go wherever you want, and no matter where you are you can photograph whatever you see, and youíre never challenged by somebody who tells you:
ìWait a minute! Thatís off limits, and the pictures canít be made public.î
Instead, you see that all these ideals that weíre acquainted with from the open comments & open source ideologies, and that are so familiar to us in that contextótheyíre actually being lived out here.
And then, that actually became the pointógoing to these people and saying weíre not interested in just staging a festival in which we, so to speak,
celebrate how great CERN is and showcase the basic research youíre doing; instead, to also use this experience as a point of departure to consider the larger issue of how new things and insights actually come about.
Thus, the ìOriginî theme was a natural outgrowth of the investigation of the Big Bang that, in a certain sense,
is being conducted at CERN, but what it represents in a deeper sense is an inquiry into whether a project,
a model like CERN might also be applicable to considering the approach our world and our society ought to take to all kinds of innovation,
how to deal with new ideas and new developments.
And, once again, this is not meant to be the least bit disrespectful, quite the contrary!
But itís incumbent upon me to pose the question of why,
if weíre ready to spend that much money and invest so much effort in basic scientific research,
and seeing as how we have models like CERN that function so successfully,
then why isnít there something similar for social research?
Why donít we also have an international research organization where, likewise, 10,000 men and women are at work nurturing social innovation?
And that is actually the thematic context that we feel very comfortable in because the whole fascinating world of science and art can come together face-to-face on the same level.
This festival has so many highlights.
One is, needless to say, the Origin Symposium.
Among the speakers are Paul Davies, Lisa Randall and Humberto Maturana, people who can be called the heroes of recent decades.
Maturana, for instance, is now in his early 80s.
He was one of the cofounders of so-called radical constructivism, which, I think is due for a reassessment now, in a phase in which we regard scientific phenomena like quantum mechanics from quite a different perspective,
in which we see how reality is constructed, what realityóor rather what we hold to be realityóactually depends upon.
I believe that this will make it necessary for us to undertake a thoroughgoing reevaluation of this aspect of constructivism.
Although Iím not sure this will come off as planned,
weíve done what we can to make it happenó
Professor Zeilinger, one of the worldís top quantum physicists, and Humberto Maturana, who has, in the meantime,
turned away somewhat from radical constructivism in order to devote more attention to his own theory,
but is nevertheless very familiar with this body of thoughtóthat bringing these two together might well cause a few discursive sparks to fly during the course of the symposium.
And this is a totally fascinating matter, that scientific findings naturally change our world and our view of humankind.
And especially in the case of quantum mechanicsóitís been a little more than 100 years since Max Planck put forth, so to speak, the basic rules of quantum mechanics.
And when you consider the enormous potential that this has, in the philosophical dimension as well,
then we become aware of how very little of this has penetrated our picture of the world and our view of humankind.
Of course, 100 years are a long time, but perhaps weíre still in a phase in which weíre only just beginning to recognize the actual significance of the findings of quantum mechanics and,
in a broader sense, what they mean for us as human beings and for us as a society, and this is only starting to emerge.
I believe, in this respect, the constellation of participants weíve brought together for this symposium is a fascinating one.
So, thatís definitely one of the highlights in the symposium area.
Another one, of course, comes on Thursday evening with the theatrical production in Hausruck.
Science has always been very closely associated with spirituality.
It has a lot to do with mysticism.
Thereís a great deal of pseudoscience and a great many charlatans out there.
This is something that science has to face up to. I guess that several of our scientific partners arenít the least bit amused by what weíre doing out there.
But, after all, science is just one part of the human spectrum, of human wishes, longings and forms of expression, and itís simply impossible to precisely delineate the domain of scientific facts.
The exciting thing about science is that we have long since entered dimensions in which beautifully precise definitions ultimately cease to apply.
With mathematical formulae, I can clearly define quite a bit, but when I go beyond that sphere into the fields in which CERN conducts its research such as cosmology and astronomy Ö
the fact that weíre familiar with no more than about 4.6% of the universe and donít even know too much about that Ö
we donít know for sure if gravity functions the way we suspect it does, whether mass and the Higgs boson are really what we think they are.
This will all come out in the next couple of hundred years.
But right now, the chances are good that things will turn out to be completely different than the way we imagine them.
And I believe that this might just be a good thing, this imperfection, that this is something that is the way it should be, this acknowledgment of the inability to be perfect,
the impossibility of ultimate precision and exactitude,
because this is precisely what causes new things to come about.
If we return now to the subject of the willingness to take a risk,
the courage to blaze new trails in fields in which one doesnít even know where the lines of transition run and where the boundaries are located, then we see that this is what constitutes science,
what constitutes the discovery of new things, and this is why I believe that this Thursday event is an incredibly important contribution.
The night of sound in the Linz Cathedral promises to be just as good.
Sam Auinger and his friends will be making this fantastic location resound and vibrate from sundown to sunup.
On Sunday, thereís the evening concert featuring several really great performances.
A mixture of machines and musicians will predominate on this night.
And these are just some of the truly extraordinary highlights in this yearís festival lineup ... I could go on and on Ö