On 8 February 2014, Dr. Sundeep Waslekar, President, Strategic Foresight Group, spoke at the University of Mumbai on “Which ideas will dominate the 21st century?”. He was the first speaker of the 2014 lecture series programme titled "Enlighten Yourself Every Saturday (EYES)” organized by the Philosophy Department of the University of Mumbai.
Dr. Waslekar began his speech with examples of ideas that have shaped human history: practical concepts such as the domestication of plants and animals, and theoretical notions such as the Nation State. He went on to explain that the future of our civilization will also be shaped by the evolution of path breaking ideas. In his opinion, the 21st century will see the competition and convergence of ideas emerging from the two disciplines of physics and biology. The outcome of which, will most dramatically change the world as we understand it today. Advanced physics laboratories are already challenging the theories of Einstein, exploring the existence of multiple universes and trying to harness space beyond Earth, amongst other things. Biologists are experimenting with artificial life that could alter the living universe. In another 30 years we are likely to witness a post human and post-Earth era, as scientific research continues to challenge the laws of nature and space by which our world currently complies.
As we experience these drastic changes, the one idea that will decide whether we survive or perish will be the nature of the ethical basis of our world. The new discoveries will have the powers of both good and evil. Our survival will depend on our ability to promote the good and control the evil, and thus bring a balance in the struggle between power and principles. This new code of conduct will have to be created through extensive philosophical discourse and cemented in legal codification.
After Dr. Waslekar’s talk, the floor was opened to questions. The interesting mix of people in the audience (which included students, professors and professionals) ensured a variety of questions from disciplines such as economics, law and philosophy. The lively conversations continued through the informal tea session held after the event.