Socrates Seminar: “Techno-narratives & Truth: Reshaping the Future”
Aspen Institute España and Fundación Telefónica, in collaboration with Google hosted from October 8 to 10, 2021, a new edition of the Socrates Seminar “Techno-narratives & Truth: Reshaping the Future”. This seminar, which belongs to the Tech & Society Program, organized in collaboration with Fundación Telefónica, was hold in person at Parador de La Granja de San Idelfonso, Segovia. Leigh Hafrey, Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, moderated the Seminar.
Following the lines determined by Aspen Institute in the US, the Socrates España Seminars provide a forum for emerging leaders (between the ages of 28 and 45) from various professions to convene and reflect over contemporary issues through expert-moderated dialogues. These seminars enable participants to explore current and pressing leadership challenges. Discussions are built around contemporary texts, and are led by expert moderators who engage and encourage participants to share their views. At the core of these Seminars is a remarkable group of emerging and recognized leaders including entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, representatives from the public sector and journalists, among others.
Aspen Institute España and Fundación Telefónica hosted the first edition of the program in 2017. In 2021, on its fifth edition, the Program has become the main forum in Spain for reflection on the challenges posed by the new technologies. The fifth edition hosts various leaders from the civil society, including Evgeny Morozov, writer and researcher specialized in the political and social implications of technology, to debate on advances in digital technology and its influence in areas as diverse as human relations, politics, education, economy or medicine.
In parallel to the pandemic that we have experienced globally over the past year and-a-half, we seem also to be suffering from an epidemic doubt in the possibility of truth. The latter skepticism stems in part from both the triumphs we celebrate and the glitches we can’t escape in our own technologies, both material and digital. “Techno-narratives & Truth: Reshaping the Future” places our uncertainty about our creations, ourselves, and one another in historical context. We consider the ethical dilemmas that scientific innovation generates and the knock-on effects that those dilemmas generate for our politics and our relationships one-on-one and in community. In the end, we also explore ways to reclaim our confidence in a day-to-day shared reality.
In three modules, “Techno-narratives” takes us through a call-and-response on access to working truth. First, to whom do we commonly assign the burden of proof: professional experts, regulatory bodies, historical fact, certifiable fiction, and why does that authority eventually fail? In a second module we explore how, even as we deny those entities the trust with which we had previously endowed them, we negotiate interim confidence in them by invoking forgotten foundational, but now often conflictual, principles. Finally, faced with the stress of that attraction/repulsion, we move beyond regulation and activism to blend art and science, knowledge and imagination to create a new, effective reality. We know that we have crafted a work-in-progress, but the act of creation and the discovery that often follows make it real.
Leigh Hafrey is a Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management.Since 1991, Hafrey has worked in professional ethics, with a focus on ethical leadership, teaching courses at Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan, and consulting with professional practitioners in the United States and abroad. At MIT Sloan, he teaches in the MBA program and Leaders for Global Operations, for which he moderates a mandatory two-year leadership course. He has also taught in MIT’s Industrial Liaison, MIT-China Management Education, Master of Finance, Management of Technology, Nanyang Fellows, Sloan Fellows in Innovation and Global Leadership, Supply Chain Management, and System Design and Management programs.Since 1996, Hafrey has moderated the Aspen Institute’s Seminar in Leadership, Values, and the Good Society and other seminars sponsored by the Institute in the U.S. and abroad. From 1993 to 2010, together with his wife, Sandra Naddaff, Hafrey was a co-Master of Mather House, one of the 12 residential complexes in Harvard College. The Mather community brings together 400 undergraduates; 100 faculty, administrative, and alumni fellows; and dozens of advisory and other staff.A former staff editor at The New York Times Book Review, Hafrey has published reporting, essays, reviews, interviews, and translations in The New York Times and other American and European periodicals. He serves on the editorial advisory board of Philosophy of Management (U.K.) and the Journal of Business Ethics Education (U.S.). His publications on business and management include a quarterly column for IPA’s Business Today (2007-09); cases and blogs for MIT Sloan; a book on how people use stories to articulate ethical norms,The Story of Success: Five Steps to Mastering Ethics in Business (2005); and War Stories: Fighting, Competing, Imagining, Leading, an essay on business alternatives to a culture of war in today’s America (2016).Hafrey holds an AB in English from Harvard College and a PhD in comparative literature from Yale University.