CONTACT: Cultures of the Imagination is a unique interdisciplinary conference which brings together some of the world's foremost social and space scientists, science fiction writers and artists to exchange ideas, stimulate new perspectives and encourage serious creative speculation about humanity's future, on-world and off-world.
After thirty years of conferences, CONTACT has evolved into a dynamic forum on the future, including some of the brightest of the new generation at NASA and SETI, scientists hard and soft, and as well as such exotics as anthropologists, philosophers, poets, filmmakers, historians, mathematicians and space lawyers. And more fun for all. Everyone’s a participant!
When we put on the first CONTACT in 1983, our goal was to create a unique, interdisciplinary gathering about the future which we hoped would earn a respected place in that future. As we now look ahead into the new millennium, we see the following principles of operation as a guide to our vision and a statement of CONTACT's mission.
An Interdisciplinary Approach. This, more than anything else, makes our conference unique. Our purpose in setting up CONTACT in the first place was to create a professional conference (typical of any particular discipline) which atypically included many different professional disciplines. This not only forces together many new and diverse perspectives (a basic anthropological concern) but also increases the enjoyment factor. This is what "contact" means to me. we like to see sparks fly.
Professionalism. CONTACT needs to remain committed to fostering and maintaining its professional scientific credibility by encouraging the participation -- and publication -- of scholars who are acknowledged as responsible representatives by their peer colleagues. In only this way can we present reliable material to each other and to the public and be taken seriously in our endeavors within the educational, scientific and policy-making communities we want to influence. Otherwise, Contact becomes just another "con."
Science as a Guide to the Imagination. Notwithstanding this, we should also continue to maintain "a spirit of responsible adventurousness." Subjects and approaches which stir the imagination as well as the intellect should not be discouraged, as long as they can bear the scrutiny of scientific investigation. As we gain confidence and credibility, we can eventually face the challenge of presenting a balanced interdisciplinary, scientifically-based inquiry on any subject. In all undertakings, our reasonable discretion should be directed toward reaching a position of valor.
New Forum for New Ideas. Too often the atmosphere within our own disciplines is so competitive that we are discouraged from doing the kind of creative speculation that rejuvenates our perspectives. It has been our intention that CONTACT would provide an alternative forum for piloting or "sunshining" new ideas for peer review. CONTACT should continue to provide an open and synergistic context, nurturing a spirit conducive to exploring (not denying) possibilities. In this way, we can ensure that we entice valuable new participants, that our work remains on the leading edge and that our conference never ceases to be an exciting, innovative event.
Education for the Future. We are chartered as both a scientific and educational corporation, with a commitment to public benefit as well as collegial satisfaction. Our By-laws clearly state our purpose "to educate the general public;" and we have a standing committee on Education. Most of us are educators or deeply concerned with education; and our human resources, simulations and interests place us in a unique position to develop curricula for building a new generation that is excited about humanity's future on Earth and in space.
Focus on Human Factors. Human problems -- unlike technological and physical ones -- commonly have no solutions, only resolutions, which are by their nature temporary, context-specific and variable; and levels of predictability will likely always be lower than in the hard sciences. It is, perhaps, precisely for this reason that we must not give up our commitment to professional exploration of the human component of the human future.
We feel these principles of operation have successfully survived the selective pressures of the past and ought to continue to be the guiding stars of our journey into the future. Survival is not a sufficient goal; we have to be adaptable without abandoning our ideals. These principles will help us chart our course, so that we can explore the unknown without losing our way.
By joining and supporting CONTACT's GoFundMe campaign, you get to be a part of this future! Stay tuned for more!
-- Jim Funaro
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