'I opened a bottle with Stephen Hawking to celebrate our eureka moment'
- Prof. Thomas Hertog
At and&, we are building an interdisciplinary space where bright minds bow their heads over 21 questions for the 21st century.
Innovation is never as dramatic as we like to portray it. We didn’t go from the wheel to the car, or from the first man-made fire to a steam engine. Innovation is the consequence of making small, incremental improvements by continuously and unabashedly asking questions. What used to be a philosopher’s job, has become an important occupation for all.
Of course, asking questions is hard. Not all of them necessarily lead to answers and few dare to walk the road to the unknown. But even by merely trying to explore the right questions you grow the boundaries of what’s possible and you clear the ground for other, future questions. Each new question opens up the possibility of another one. It is there, buried in those questions and just beyond the things we’re already capable of doing, that we can find innovation. This part of the conference is led by people unafraid to ask questions, no matter what their outcome is.
Thomas Hertog has learned to love the questions themselves. As a theoretical physicist, he literally tries to solve the big questions of the Universe. Hertog worked in the field of quantum cosmology and string theory alongside legendary physicists like James Hartle and Stephen Hawking. In the autumn of 2021, KU[N]ST Leuven, with the help of Hertog, plans a large-scale cultural city festival exploring the origins of the cosmos.
Pieter Steyaert is a co-founder of SEADS (Space Ecologies Art and Design), an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural collective of artists, scientists, engineers and activists. SEADS is actively engaged in deconstructing dominant paradigms about the future and develops alternative models through a combination of critical inquiry and hands-on experimentation. SEADS believes that their approaches are key to unlocking collective intelligence, a prerequisite for generating more diversified and inclusive futures.
You could argue that journalists are professional question-askers, but to say that Cal Fussman is a journalist is a bit of an understatement. As a 'Writer at Large' for Esquire magazine, he has interviewed hundreds of the most talented, compelling and powerful people on earth: Mikhail Gorbachev, Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy, Robert DeNiro, Clint Eastwood, and many, many more. He is also the host of the Big Questions podcast. As he puts it himself: “I have come to see that I’ve been blessed with a gift to ask the right questions. There’s no reason for me to keep it to myself when so many people can use it to change their lives for the better.”
You might know Alexa Clay as the author of The Misfit Economy, where she collected lessons in creativity from pirates, hackers, gangster and other informal entrepreneurs. Alexa is a researcher, writer and public speaker on topics related to underground and grassroots innovation, technological change, economic transition, and the power of misfits.
'When we think of entrepreneurship, it readily goes to a portrait of a young guy in a hoodie in his 20s out in Silicon Valley who often comes from enormous privilege,' she says in The Misfit Economy. 'I think part of the purpose of the book was really to cast a different light on entrepreneurs and to be able to see gangsters and people in the black market as just as creative and entrepreneurial as the Silicon Valley incubators.'
And you? What questions are you asking?
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