BW Lecture 2019

Branco Weiss Lecture 2019

What is Human?

In biology and technology, scientific reality has changed dramatically in the recent past, and we are entering a time of mind-blowing discovery and rapid change that forces us to deal with fundamental questions about the nature of our humanity. These have direct practical consequences in fields ranging from developmental biology to robotics and health care.

In this second Branco Weiss lecture, four Fellows – ldse Heemskerk, Marco Hutter, Tanya Latty and Anna-Sophia Wahl – discussed topics ranging from artificial human embryos to artificial intelligence and the astonishing collective intelligence of social insects. The aim was to stimulate dialogue at the interface of science and society – a prerequisite for scientific progress that benefits humankind.

The four fellows addressed the topic from many different perspectives with arguments from their respective fields of research – biology, robotics, behavioral ecology, and neuroscience. During the lecture it became clear that humans are by no means as special as we may have thought for a long time. So the question “What is Human?” remains wide open – but the way this topic was discussed in this lecture offered a fascinating and entertaining introduction into how the question is viewed in different disciplines.