The Shock of the New: Arts, Technology, and Making Sense of the Future

20-25 February 2018

Schloss Leopoldskron
Leopoldskronstrasse 56-58
5020 Salzburg, Austria

Amy Karle: Opening Keynote
+ Conversation with Amy Karle
20 February 6-8pm 

review the final report, articles and outcomes click HERE.


 The Salzburg Global Seminar challenges current and future leaders to shape a better world.

Salzburg Global Session 593, “The Shock of the New: Arts, Technology, and Making Sense of the Future”, gathered 50 future thinkers from 25 countries to re-imagine the nexus between the arts and technology, questioning what it means to be human in the Anthropocene and beyond. These artists, intellectuals, creative thinkers, and groundbreaking practitioners re-imagined the nexus between the arts, technology, the environment and human futures. See 

*This session has been included on the list of the most exciting design events of 2018
selected by leading designers, scholars, and experts. Read more here on

The Salzburg Global Seminar was founded on the intrinsic belief that we must look to the future in order to challenge the building blocks of our society. This program, part of the long-running multi-year series, Culture, Arts and Society, builds on Salzburg Global’s mission to challenge present and future leaders to shape a better world, while advancing its commitment to demonstrate the transformative power of culture, creativity and the arts by challenging participants to reimagine the possible.

Amy Karle’s keynote speech kicked off “The Shock of the New: Arts, Technology, and Making Sense of the Future”; her fellowship is ongoing.

“Are artists better at predicting the future than scientists or policy-makers? Can more collaboration between art and technology help prepare societies for the future in an age of massive and rapid technological change?” Bethany Bell  interviews Amy Karle for the BBC World Service.


What will our planet look like in 2050 or 2100? Who or what will control our lives? What will it mean to be human? These and other hard questions will be the central focus of this timely Salzburg Global session, bringing together artists, creative thinkers and groundbreaking practitioners from around the world to re-imagine the nexus between the arts, technology and human futures.

In times characterized by complexity, disruption and unprecedented speed of change, uncertainty about the future is staring us in the face. Some people relish the unknown: the “art of the possible” gives meaning and excitement to their lives. For many, however, insecurity and divisions in society today make it much harder to embrace the future with confidence. The shock of the new can paralyze rather than energize. Making sense of what lies ahead will become ever more important as science reaches further and deeper into space and nanotechnology, and as artificial intelligence and big data transform daily life.

Artists and cultural practitioners – like inventors and scientists – push the boundaries of the human imagination. They help us move beyond the familiar, transcend borders between the present and the future, and become more curious about the new and emergent. This landmark session aims to launch an unusual voyage into the future, calling on artists to share their “guides to the galaxy.” Outstanding creative talents will forge an unconventional dialogue with technologists, scientists, futurists, policymakers, educators and others deeply invested in breakthrough discoveries and the fate of our planet. They will come together across divides to envision and anticipate what may lie ahead.

Building on Salzburg Global’s mission to challenge current and future leaders to shape a better world, this session will provide a generous space for border-busting enquiry to chart collaborative pathways to more livable futures. Participants with radically different perspectives will explore how closer collaboration could inspire and inform public debate and enrich educational processes. How can we better connect parallel conversations and initiatives across the globe? Looking forward, how might artists’ visions play a more central role in the way decision-makers and innovators plan and implement for our shared future?

Opening Keynote Speaker Artist Amy Karle Speaking at Salzburg Global Seminar.
Photo Credit: Salzburg Global Seminar / Herman Seidl

The highly interactive program will be structured around an inspiring mix of presentations, performances, curated conversations, and small group work. The process seeks to combine theory, policy and practice across sectoral silos, opening up new perspectives and intensive learning opportunities. Participants will explore cross-cutting questions during plenary sessions featuring presentations and discussions led by groundbreaking practitioners. They will also work intensively in smaller focus groups that will meet several times over the course of the program to focus on specific themes and assignments in greater depth.


Overarching questions to kick-start discussions will include:

  • Can we learn from history? With George Orwell’s 1984 a bestseller in 2017, how accurately have artists in the past “predicted” the future? How have societies reacted to such predictions?
  • What utopian and dystopian views of the future are currently emerging in different art forms? What excitement and fears surround scientific and technological breakthroughs? Where could these interventions take our societies? Who makes the decisions and who owns the knowhow?
  • Do artists, scientists, and decision-makers know how to talk to each other? Could new collaborations across disciplines reshape the face of the world in coming decades?
  • How can we preserve the human element in the face of technologized processes and pressures? Could art, as the ultimate expression of humanity, help to restore a sense of agency and identity?
  • What futures do we really want and how can we make these futures come to life?

Artist Amy Karle Speaking at Salzburg Global Seminar. Photo credit: Salzburg Global Seminar / Herman Seidl

Through this five-day session at Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg Global Seminar aims to:

  • Facilitate dialogue, exchange and new forms of global networking and collaboration between cultural activators and representatives of scientific and technological sectors working at the intersection of the arts, innovation, and future thinking;
  • Develop strategies and arts-based approached for cross-sectoral collaboration by connecting arts practice to research and policy agendas, framing a call to action around desirable futures, inspiring public debate and educational curricula, and influencing decision-making processes;
  • Raise greater awareness of the unique and often-underestimated role of the arts in intuiting trends, asking hard questions, and ultimately accelerating transformative change;
  • Share learning through reporting from the session (blogs, newsletters, substantive report) with a broad, international group of stakeholders; and
  • Lay the foundations of a global lab for creative future thinking across generations, disciplines, and sectors to forge a more just and sustainable world.