The world appears to be more changeable than ever. Increasing technological improvements enable us to have power over ourselves and our surroundings. We tinker with our genes and shape the world around us, eradicating problems such as hunger and infectious diseases. We firmly believe that we are able to reverse the damage we have caused to our environment. The European Union is based on the assumption that we are able to create a democratic supranational society. We have power over the world around us.
Nevertheless, we tend to feel powerless in an increasingly more complex world. Technological improvements develop faster than the policies that should keep them in check. Damage to the environment often proves irreversible and societies tend to polarise while extremist ideas dominate the public discourse. The world appears splintered. Do we overestimate the possibility to consciously influence our political and economic systems? Have these systems become too rigid and too complex to be substantially changed? Do we have actual power over the world around us? In an age where computers and algorithms play an increasingly important role in our decision making processes, the question concerning the amount of power we have over our own lives arises. Do we still shape our world, our are we being shaped? Does the individual still have power over their own lives or do we stand powerless? The fortieth symposium of the Veerstichting will discuss the ability to change our world and the power and powerlessness that comes with it. We will explore this subject through multiple disciplines, points of view and cultures.