Inspiration Forum

The search for what life is and how to give weight back to culture

Who can you look forward to at this year's forum? Introducing more speakers who will inspire our thinking about space, water, communities and artificial intelligence. Sara Imari Walker will guide us through the mysterious life in the universe, and quite possibly take us far beyond our imagination; Andri Snær Magnason will use stories and mythology to describe climate phenomena that ordinary language is often inadequate for; thanks to the cultural journalism manifesto You Can't Pay Your Rent with Enthusiasm, we’ll discover how undervalued the work of cultural journalists is not only in a financial sense; and researcher Stanislav Fořt will shed light on the extent to which the advent of AI will affect our lives.

Wednesday's space session will conclude with a talk by American astrobiologist and physicist Sara Imari Walker, whose work questions the origin and nature of life. Walker understands life as a cosmic creative process with information at its core. Moving at the frontiers of knowledge in physics, she argues that life should not be thought of as binary in terms of animate-inanimate categories, but rather as a continuum, ranging from chemistry to technology. We earthlings have come to identify life with ourselves. But Walker offers a fundamentally new view of life in the universe that takes us far beyond fantasies of anthropomorphized green-grey beings in flying saucers. Her conception breaks away from the limiting categories by which we define life on Earth, allowing for the possibility that we may have encountered extraterrestrial life long ago - we just haven't focused on the essentials and so have been unable to recognize it.

On Thursday, writer and documentary filmmaker Andri Snær Magnason will invite us to join him in his search for a new language to describe something as fundamental and ubiquitous as well as remote as the climate crisis - through science, family stories, old films and mythology. Magnason describes this effort in his latest book, On Time and Water, which was published last year in Czech in a translation by Marta Bartošková. According to leading scientists, the shape of almost all water on the planet will change fundamentally over the next hundred years. Melting glaciers and permafrost, rising sea levels, changes in the amount and intensity of rain and snowfall, unprecedented pH levels in the world's oceans. The disruption of the delicate balance of water (and other) cycles by anthropogenic climate change is the origin of events that are historical, geological and mythological in nature and proportion. Magnason considers the ways in which these inevitable phenomena, which are perhaps larger than language, can be understood.

On Friday, we’ll have the opportunity to see and understand that you can't pay the rent with enthusiasm, and in cultural journalism this is doubly true. This is an initiative founded by journalists Hana Řičicová, Anežka Bartlová, Táňa Zabloudilová and Miloš Hroch to make the unsustainable working conditions in cultural journalism visible. For most of us, culture is what shapes us - everyone is searching for themselves through it, and its social significance is unquestionable. Yet, in the Czech media world and beyond it, culture is a superfluous topic, viewed only through its ability to generate profit. Thus, writing about culture becomes a luxury that not everyone can afford. Especially if he or she wants to live and work with dignity. What are the problems cultural journalism is currently facing and what can be done about it? How to breathe new life into cultural editorial offices?

In the debates about the rapid development of artificial intelligence, we sometimes hear confusing, unclear or even contradictory information - some see it as an advance that will make our lives fundamentally easier; others portray a dystopian future and warn of the consequences of improving intelligence, which often even the developers themselves do not fully understand, while others believe that there is no technological revolution. Are we now watching a historic breakthrough in AI development unfold live, or is it a storm in a teacup? Should we be afraid of AI? Will AI replace poets and programmers? And when will general AI come, what will it look like and what will it mean for humanity? These questions and more will be answered in Saturday's session by Stanislav Fořt, a scientist who works on creating safe and reliable artificial intelligence systems.