Posts Tagged ‘memory’

Understanding future recipients of our messages

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

The first regular meeting of the Expert Group on Awareness Preservation, which is part of the Working Party on Information, Data and Knowledge Management at the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency, took place 7-8 April 2021.

Its Chair, Martin Kunze, emphasised that the group will continue the previous work of the NEA on Records, Knowledge and Memory but shift the emphasis from designing and transmitting messages on nuclear waste deposits to understanding its future recipients. 

Both Cornelius Holtorf and Anders Högberg contributed with presentations. Cornelius outlined a necessary shift of thinking from preserving objects to anticipating social processes and embracing change, based on current thinking in Heritage Studies. Anders introduced related ideas about futures consciousness and futures literacy, emphasising the need to avoid imposing our own ideas onto the future and to try and accommodate decisions made in future presents.

Dossier on Nuclear Energy in Die Presse

Wednesday, March 10th, 2021

Cornelius Holtorf was interviewed by Konradin Schuchter about long-term memory regarding nuclear waste disposal sites for an article published as part of a Dossier on Nuclear Energy in the Austrian daily national newspaper Die Presse (9 March 2021).

Another interview partner was our collaborator Martin Kunze of the Memory of Mankind initiative.

Schuchter wrote, among others:

Der Archäologe Cornelius Holtorf von der schwedischen Linné-Universität ist der Meinung, dass es unmöglich ist, vernünftig vorauszusagen, welche Bedeutung unser atomares Erbe für zukünftige Generationen haben wird. Holtorf verfolgt die Debatte rund um die Atommüll-Endlagerung schon seit einiger Zeit und ist auch in unterschiedlichen Expertengremien zu dem Thema vertreten. Er betont, dass die Bedeutung nicht im radioaktiven Material selbst liege, sondern, dass sich diese immer erst durch den interpretativen Rahmen des Rezipienten konstituiere.

The need to remember COVID-19

Saturday, May 2nd, 2020

Neuroscientist and futurist Anders Sandberg has published an interesting argument about our moral duty to remember the lesson of COVID-19 for the benefit of future generations:

The Covid-19 pandemic … is a wake-up call. … [H]istorically we have adapted to trauma rather well. Maybe too well – we have a moral reason to ensure that we do not forget the harsh lessons we are learning now. 

What kind of lessons do we need to learn? The basic ones are what strategies work and do not work, whether in epidemiological strategy, social life or how to handle the experience personally. 

According to Sandberg, part of the solution may be the construction of monumental memorials:

In the end, we better build some hard-to-ignore monuments to the people who died or performed heroically, to shore up our collective memory. Li Wenliang may be a good symbolic martyr to remember (especially the key lesson about openness being necessary for a rapid response).

It is to a large degree a real moral choice whether Covid-19 becomes a warning shot that teaches us useful things for the time when a truly dangerous pathogen emerges (or is made) or just a massive distraction that is soon conveniently forgotten… until it is too late. Given the stakes, it matters to remember well.

But what does it matter “to remember well”, I would ask? No detailed message remains understandable and meaningful across generations, unless it is regularly being updated and translated into a new context.

The best message to transmit to the future may therefore be a meta-message:

  1. Keep the experts on essential issues!
  2. Listen to them!
  3. Vote for politicians who put human wellbeing first! 

I wonder who may be the right martyr to be memorialised for that message to be carried forward…