Photo credits:
Johan Wahlgren

SCAS News - 27 February, 2020

The 2nd Wittrock Lecture Held by Helga Nowotny

On 25 February, 2020, Professor Helga Nowotny visited Uppsala to give the second lecture
in the new SCAS Wittrock Lecture Series, which was instigated by the Swedish Collegium
in 2019, in honour of the contributions of Professor Björn Wittrock, the former Principal of
the Collegium (1996- 2018) and the driving force ever since its creation in 1985.

The title of Nowotny’s presentation, “Life in the Digital Time Machine”, reflects a theme
described by Nowotny as follows: “It is a truism, albeit an urgent one, that humanity faces un-
precedented global challenges. At last, we have discovered the spatial finiteness and vulnerability
of the planet, our only habitat so far. Our temporal bearings are also shifting. We cannot escape
the present which increases in density, acceleration and openness towards past and future, filled
with ever more information from the past and expectations from a future that is already here,
but unequally distributed. With access to a huge amount of data, unprecedented computational
power and clever algorithms we are constructing a digital niche. The predictive power of algo-
rithms enables us to see further ahead, opening new opportunities for prevention and shaping the
future. Does it also risk a return to a more deterministic worldview once we start to align with
the predictive power of the digital time machine?.”

The lecture is available here.

Helga Nowotny is Professor emerita of Science and Technology Studies, ETH Zurich; Chair of
the ERA Council Forum Austria; and Former President of the European Research Council. She
is a member of the Academic Senate of SCAS and has a long-standing relation to the Collegium.

The Collegium arranges the Wittrock Lecture annually. The first, inaugural Wittrock Lecture
was held on 15 February, 2019, by Professor Jürgen Kocka, Freie Universität Berlin, on
“Historians and the Future”.