Employing our signature experimental, transdisciplinary approach to Connecting the Dots, we presented a full program of activities with our partners in 2019 to create lasting impact on the US West Coast and in Switzerland. In the final year of the decade we welcomed over 5046 people through our doors at Pier 17, and collaborated with more than 60 partners. We kick-started new initiatives, wrapped up a multi-year science-communication program, and explored the stages of life in a year-long experimental series of activities discussing birth, life, and death in the age of technology acceleration – just to highlight a few of our main activities.
Boosting Swiss Science Communication Talent
After three years, we concluded the Pier17 Science Studio, a fellowship program supporting emerging talents in science communication and public engagement, backed by the Gebert Rüf Foundation. During multi-week residencies, ten fellows developed new ideas, practices and models aimed at building open dialogues around science, society and the wider issues facing us today. The program exposed them to the vibrant Bay Area science communication community and provided connections and infrastructure to further develop their visions to advance public engagement with science.
Exploring the Cycles of Life
Throughout 2019, we brought together experts from a range of disciplines to explore the questions we confront in an age of CRISPR, genetic body modification, the datafication of our DNA, and the intersections of artificial intelligence and synthetic biology. To conclude the series, we produced a day-long symposium that paved way into a public event with expert panels and dance performances by KineTech Arts and Malika Fankha examining the changing relationship between our bodies, our minds, and our data. The event was presented in partnership with HESAV (School of Health Sciences) in Lausanne, the University of Lausanne, and the Board of the Higher Education (DGES) of the Canton de Vaud, with local support from the Institute for the Future and Leonardo.
Celebrating 30 years of the WWW
2019 marked the 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web, which is of particular importance to Silicon Valley as with the emergence of the web, came opportunities to dream, experiment and build the platforms and companies that today impact our everyday lives. For a group of Media & Interaction Design faculty and students from Lausanne University of Art and Design ECAL, the anniversary provided an opportunity to reflect on 30 years of the Internet. During a study tour in 2018, the idea behind Infomesh was catalyzed, and an interactive visualization was developed by ECAL in partnership with Wikimedia and the Internet Archive. During an artistic residency at Pier 17 in 2019, ECAL’s Laura Perrenoud, together with ECAL students in Lausanne, built an interactive timeline and overview of the Web’s history. The installation allowed users to explore the social, technical, cultural and legal facts of the 30-year evolution of the Web, living on at infomesh.org.
Rethinking Inclusion in AI
As we looked towards the future, budding discussions around ethical principles in artificial intelligence provided an opportunity to partner with foraus and AI Commons, and tap into the power of the global swissnex Network. In a joint experiment, we launched a global project to brainstorm ideas to guide us Towards An Inclusive Future in AI. Employing foraus’ new Policy Kitchen methodology, the initiative resulted in eleven workshops in eight countries, involving ten partner organizations and about 120 participants from a wide range of perspectives, who collaboratively generated 43 ideas and proposals for inclusion in artificial intelligence. The preliminary output was presented at the AI for Good Global Summit held in Geneva in May 2019 and the results published in a final report.
Innovating within Business
Finally, last Fall, we launched the first cross-corporate innovation camp, a 2-week structured learning program aimed at transforming Swiss companies’ strategic priorities into concrete innovation projects. The compact program of innovation workshops, toolbox sessions, tech deep dives and inspirational visits granted six intrapreneurs from Swiss Post, SBB and Romande Energie the time and space to take innovation ideas to validated prototypes. Bertrand Rivier of Romande Energy shared his experience of the program in an interview: “We met so many different innovators, great designers, and they are all specialists in their fields. Coming here enabled me to learn new methods, to be focused on one topic at a time, and really develop the whole idea from problem statement to fully functioning prototype”.
Back to the future: 20 years of swissnex
As we kick off the new decade, we look forward to a vibrant year of learning, co-creation, growth and transformation with our partners. 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of the swissnex Network and its unique approach to bottom-up science and technology diplomacy. This year, swissnex San Francisco’s activities will focus on Human and Planetary Health, Future Economy and Digital Society, further contributing to the exchange of knowledge and ideas to help provide answers to the challenges facing the world – never ceasing to Connect the Dots.