Speakers Bios & Abstracts

Platzhalter Speakers
Helga Nowotny

President European Research Council, Professor
Emeritus of Social Studies of Science, ETH Zurich


Helga Nowotny is Professor emerita of Social Studies of Science, ETH Zurich and a founding member of the European Research Council. In 2007 she was elected ERC Vice President and in March 2010 succeeded Fotis Kafatos as President of the ERC. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Columbia University, NY. and a doctorate in jurisprudence from the University of Vienna. Her current host institution is the Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF). Helga Nowotny is a member of the University Council of the Ludwig Maximilians University Munich and member of many other international Advisory Boards and selection committees. From 2005 – June 2011 she was Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the University of Vienna. She is a Foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and long standing member the Academia Europaea and recipient of several prizes and awards.

Helga Nowotny has published more than 300 articles in scientific journals. Her latest book publications include Naked Genes, Reinventing the human in the molecular age, (with Giuseppe Testa), MIT Press, 2011, Insatiable Curiosity, Innovation in a Fragile Future, MIT Press, 2008, and Cultures of Technology and the Quest for Innovation (ed.), New York and London, 2006.


The embarrassement of complexity

For most managers the reality of complexity is an embarrassement. Reality – as there is no way of denying the increasing levels of complexity. Embarrassement – as the limits of control become visible. Yet, complexity has also positive sides. It expands human capabilities by the clever use of technology linked to novel organizational forms. It humbles us in view of what can and cannot be predicted. Recognizing the limits and the potential creates a stark choice: either we assume ethical responsibility in face of complexity or we adopt a de-humanized world view in which there is no place for human agency. The first implies integrated thinking, based on the ability to connect. I will explore this option further, especially in view of the inbred tendency of ‚mistakes have been made – but not by me’ and argue for embracing complexity as an evolving system open towards the future, including errors we will continue to make.