Facing a World in Crisis

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How do we respond to global challenges and crises?

Our proposed solutions contain assumptions regarding the underlying causes of these crises. Many of these assumptions are unexamined, but nevertheless they frame our perspective. The goal of this conference is to critically examine these assumptions and frameworks, in order to unearth a more coherent view of ourselves and the current state of our world.

Some of the contemporary global challenges and crises that we face include, but are not limited to, the on-going issues of economic and health inequalities, war and terrorism, climate change, and the place of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and genome editing. Our considerations of these issues tend to veer towards various prescriptive actions. That is, we need to do A, B and C with respect to problems X, Y and Z. Less commonly considered in our approach (to arriving at possible solutions) is the critical question of the validity of our assumptions regarding the underlying origins or causal structure of these problems.

Broadly, there appear to be two kinds of frameworks about the underlying causal structure of such challenges and crises. The first of these frameworks postulate that ‘external’ conditions and events play the predominant, causal role in the creation of these problems. The second of these frameworks emphasize the role of our ‘inner’ human condition as the main source of these problems. Although the reciprocal nature of the relationship between such ‘external’ and ‘internal’ conditions and states is readily apparent (that is, each of these, at any given time, influences and also is influenced by the other), it is less clear whether, in terms of their underlying temporal causal structure, one set of conditions is more fundamental or basic than the other. This question may have important implications for our efforts to arrive not only at possible solutions to these challenges, but also at a clearer understanding of the determinant(s) of our own ‘inner’ nature.

This conference will bring together an inter-disciplinary panel of individuals with a shared interest in addressing these problems, but whose approaches represent primarily one or the other of these perspectives, in order to inquire and critically examine the basis and assumptions that underlie our divergent approaches to understanding the cause(s) of these global crises. The event will feature a formal series of presentations and discussion sessions, with ample opportunities for additional informal exchanges between the panelists and conference attendees.