Roundup: Hybrid Talks XXXIX - "Speculation"

Kora Kimpel opened the evening of the 39th Hybrid Talks on "Speculation" by stating that speculation is a term which the sciences absolutely try to avoid. And yet there are quite some sciences that have to speculate at all cost or use speculations on a scientific level and it is from representatives of  those disciplines and scientific voices we heard from that evening.

Prof. Dr. phil. Dipl.-Ing. Sabine Ammon - Vision as a driver of technology development
In addition to her professorship for technology philosophy and technology ethics at the TU Berlin, Sabine Ammon is also the speaker of the Present Futures Forums Berlin. At the beginning of her ten-minutes talk at the Hybrid Talks, she took us into a scenario of the year 2040 where rescue robots help getting people out of a burning house. The scenario visualized the possible (ethical) consequences of programming and training rescue robots and opened up some questions: What could be the possible consequences of technical advancements? How can robots be monitored? What is the impact of the timing of their training within the projects development stages? And what is the significance that speculation has here? How can visions and speculations be used? Sabine Ammon gave answers to this in the second part of her talk and also revealed the challenges for the technology assessments.

Prof. Dr. Dieter Scherer - Climate speculation: from observations to projections
Dieter Scherer, also a professor at the Technische Universität Berlin, observes in his research how the urban climate is changing. Accordingly, his talk centred around the topic of climate but with a twist. After he first clarified that the term speculation can have both positive and negative connotations, he described the benefits the term has for climate deniers but also for the media for discrediting climate research in general. In the course of his lecture he then explained the correct and scientific process of climate research. Here conclusions are mostly drawn from past observations and are projected onto future possibilities ; scenarios are developed which allow for various climate projections to be subsequently created. However he also pointed out, that climate projections should be differentiated from forecasts because they say nothing about the actual occurrence of a variant.

Prof. Dr. Kathrin Peters - How are babies born?
Kathrin Peters is professor for the history and theory of visual culture and deputy speaker for the DFG Research Training Group “Knowledge of the Arts”. The starting point for her talk were two videos (by Pasolini and Hayes), which dealt with questions of fiction within autographic and supposedly scientific believes – and therefore in the broadest sense with speculation of the past. The focus of the films (and the talk) was: Where do the babies actually come from? In the two video excerpts this question was asked to children who could not (yet) know exactly - but what can (not) be known at all? And how much of what we know is speculation?

Prof. Dr. Martin Gornig - speculative bubble
Martin Gornig has been an honorary professor at the TU Berlin for urban and regional economics since 2007. Last Thursday, however, he was invited as the research director for industrial policy at the German Institute for Economic Research. In his talk, he approached the question of how speculation can affect the economy and related systems. He sees speculation by economists as a bet: "In this way, if an event occurs in the future, you are betting on it and investing capital in it." Compared to other concepts speculation plays a very special role in the economy because it does determine expectations, triggers processes and influences success. In short: speculation is able to inflate business.

M.A. Wenzel Mehnert - What does desert smells like?
Wenzel Mehnert has been a research assistant at the University of the Arts since 2015 where he teaches, researches and works on future research methods at the interface between science and art. He is interested in considering the influence of speculative worlds (secondary worlds) on our current world (primary world). He also examines the question of which benefits the development of such speculative worlds can have for science. In his ten minutes he talked about applied speculation and presented us a project he carried out with students from the TU and the UdK as part of the Studium Generale last year and which results, in the form of short stories, culminated in a publication.

The evening full of speculation about speculation from various perspectives continued with drinks even a long time after the talk. This as an incentive is one but not the only reason why we are looking forward to the 40th Hybrid Talks on the topic of “Transparency” on April 23, 2020!

– Rosa