On the 21st of November 2019, VU-Professor Sharda Nandram will be delivering her inaugural speech at the Vrije University Amsterdam.
Nandram will mention in her speech that we are facing certain challenges in society today which scholars have been articulating as outcome of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA) or emerging Fourth Industrial Revolution (a recent term coined by scholars from the World Economic Forum). Scholars active in the World Economic Forum have written extensively about such technological advancements as mixed reality, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing. Humans would be so used to extra information and intelligence presented to them through technologies like augmented reality implanted or attached to humans (like Google Glass) or things (through IoT).
The notion of senses and sensory reality would require either a redefinition or mechanism to cope with his new reality overlayed on the old reality. Though she agrees on the huge benefits of these technologies, but she also shares her concerns on the potential threats of these advancements like robotizing humanity and existential crisis. Questions like “Who are we?” and “Why do we exist?” will be asked in all domains of human existence. The answers may not be available if we do not start reflecting on the question of what it means to be human.
Nandram reminds us of how fortunately history tells us that humans have certain fundamental qualities and that long time frames are required to realize deep value shifts in our worldviews. Nandram: “Fortunately, these shifts do not happen with the same speed as the changes witnessed in machines and technologies. Therefore I propose to use ancient wisdom to work on the assignment as Professor of Hindu Spirituality and Society.”
While sharing her perspective to Hindu Vedic scriptures, she said that the ancient seers have imagined the true nature of our existence in the universe and the universe itself, where they suggest a deep interconnectedness as the very nature of the universe. According to her, this provides fertile ground for developing integrative views on existential questions. Nandram: “Indeed, the Fourth Industrial Revolution provides many directions to answer how we should do things and this gives us a positive outlook for the future. However, in the spirit of the Hindu scriptures, I suggest building an integrative perspective about who we are and why we exist before moving towards what we should do and how by effectively using the possibilities offered by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.She proposes that maybe, next to the World Economic Forum, we need such a thing as a World Integrativeness Forum.”