Festive beginning to the Jubilee Year

Balloons, ribbon cutting, a buffet, a packed room and plenty of mingling with a background of pleasant music – this was the official start of IVA’s centennial celebration. Also during the evening there were memorable musings from both the past and present about the future.

The event included a prelude to the Jubilee Seminar on 21 February. A short film was presented, opening with the words “The future is not something that just happens, it’s something we create” and “Sweden needs to be a knowledge superpower.” With that statement and objective as the starting point, the film continued to offer ideas and perspectives from four highly successful IVA members: Christer Fuglesang, Danica Kragic, Saeid Esmaeilzadeh and Lena Ek. Ibrahim Baylan, Sweden’s Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Communications, also participated. Among other things he spoke about how IVA provided important factual input for the cross-partisan Energy Agreement a few years ago.

From the rostrum in the Wallenberg Auditorium, Professor Sverker Sörlin talked about a time several decades earlier as he explored the benefits and merits of studying the future.

“The future was hot in the 1950s, but back in 1892 Charles Richet wrote “Dans cent ans” (In a hundred years). I read it in the 1980s but then I re-read it in 1992 when exactly 100 years had passed. Nothing had happened the way he thought it would,” said Sörlin.

IVA has also made predictions over the years about the future – in the beginning mixed success. Eventually this practice transitioned into creating visions for the future instead.

“IVA creates technology-focused visions for the future, arrived at through a process that includes focus groups to reach consensus – this is a format that works. The process is as important as the end-result,” says Sörlin.

Anna Wedell, a professor of medical genetics, doesn’t predict the future – she is in the middle of it.

“Major technological advances have taken place and they are changing the way we treat diseases,” she said.

Her clinical work is unique. With the help of whole genome sequencing it is now possible to find and cure some of the 10,000 rare and hereditary diseases which, until now, have baffled the global medical community. This is hardly surprising since DNA consists of three billion building blocks. If one of them isn’t working as it should, the result will be disease.

“It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. But now we can find it.”

An interdisciplinary method combined with new technology is the answer.

Both Anna Wedell and Sverker Sörlin were met with a big round applause. And so was IVA’s Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg when, after the informative elements of the programme were over, he cut a green ribbon marking the official opening of the Academy’s centennial celebration.

But what would the opening of an almost year-long celebration be without a glass of bubbly and some yummy refreshments? Not much at all. So the evening continued under the crystal chandeliers in the Golden Hall with lively conversations in the queue for a buffet filled with all kinds of delicacies. In the background were the pleasant tones of Conversation Jazz. Periodically the band members put down their instruments so this chatty crowd could listen to brief predictions about the future from a stage in the centre of the floor.