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CLEA Open School at WIELS

  • October 10, 2020


Transgression, Intelligences and the Noosphere

10 OCT 2020 | 11:00 - 18:00h
Van Volxemlaan 316, 1190 Vorst 
​CLEA Open School​ is a one-day symposium organized by the Center Leo Apostel (CLEA) in conjunction with Risquons-Tout exhibition at the Wiels contemporary art centre in Brussels. The program draws on the 25 years of transdisciplinary research on subjects as diverse as integrating worldviews, quantum theory, cognition, collective intelligence, self-organisation, artscience, cybernetics and complexity.
Introduced by researchers from the extended CLEA community, this full day program will present three sessions on Risquons-tout related topics, followed by a round-table conversation with all the speakers and moderators interconnecting the different topics.
Please feel welcome to join us for a rich day of conversations. Make sure to reserve your place in advance and purchase the ticket, as there is limited searing. All info & links bellow.



11:00 – 13:00 
PANEL 1: Transgressing boundaries 

Boundaries are the fundamental distinctions that our mind uses to subdivide the world into parts, thus delimiting systems with clear components, properties and rules. Transgressing boundaries not only means breaching such structures, but creating new ones, establishing potentialities that the system in place didn’t allow for. The origin of boundaries has been investigated in systems theory, cybernetics and cognitive science. These distinctions are not absolute or invariant, as Aristotelian philosophy and Newtonian science assume. Quantum theory has established that distinctions tend to be indeterminate, dependent on the observer. Cognitive science has shown that mental categories are fuzzy and context-dependent. Sociology has investigated the social construction of boundaries between categories and groups. Transdisciplinary research means questioning and transcending such boundaries, potentially creating more effective ones in the process. Boundary objects and liminal spaces are some of the tools to achieve this.
Prof. Dr. Francis Heylighen: cyberneticist, systems scientist, director of CLEA
Dr. Karin Verelst: historian and philosopher of science
Dr. Marta Lenartowicz: linguist, sociologist, program director of School of Thinking
Moderator: Stan Bundervoet: social scientist, musician 



13:30 – 15:30 
PANEL 2: The Noosphere

The “noosphere” was conceived by the scientist/theologian Teilhard de Chardin as a layer of thought that envelops the planet. This noosphere would evolve towards a state of integrated consciousness, the “Omega point”, thus uniting humanity into a single thinking unit. Although the Internet is often seen as the source of many ills, from "fake news" to surveillance, it can also play the role of a digital nervous system that would support such a noospheric consciousness. From this perspective, people and their technological extensions together are forming a collective intelligence at the planetary scale, aka a “global brain”. The idea is not as speculative as it may seem. Indeed, scientists now commonly accept that mental processes, such as perception, memory and reasoning, are "extended" and “distributed” across the physical and social worlds. Information and communication technologies accelerate that process. In this session, we will discuss the emergence of the noosphere from philosophical, social and scientific perspectives, with a focus on how it implies a dissolution of the borders between humans and machines, and between different social groups, cultures and nations.
Dr. Clément Vidal: philosopher, cosmologist

Dr. Cadell Last: anthropologist, futurologist

Dr. Harry Halpin: computer scientist, philosopher 
Moderator: Katarina Petrović: artist and researcher 



16:00 – 18:00 
PANEL 3: AI vs. Open-Ended Intelligence 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications are increasingly pervading our life, answering questions, recommending options, and helping us to find the information we need. However, by doing that they are pre-selecting the possibilities offered to us. This may bias our choices, reduce creative exploration and serendipitous discovery, and push us to think in a more standardized, conventional manner. To prevent that danger, we need to better understand what AI is, what it can and cannot do, and how its filtering and recommendation algorithms precisely work. That will give us a clearer view of its potential benefits, dangers and abuses, and help us to formulate ethical guidelines for its applications. But we can go further, from the present narrow conception of AI to the broader notion of “open-ended intelligence”, which we define as fluid thinking without predefined goals or questions to be answered. Traditional AI is geared towards solving problems within a “closed”, well-defined domain. Yet, natural intelligence has no such boundaries - creative thoughts self-organize in between and across people, systems and domains. AI programs, judiciously designed, may support such open-ended exploration.
Prof. Dr. Ann Nowé: mathematician, director of AI Lab at VUB
Dr. David Weinbaum Weaver: computer engineer, philosopher 
Dr. Kabir Veitas: computer scientist 
Moderator: Orion Maxted: algorithmic theatre-maker







The ​Center Leo Apostel​ (CLEA) is a transdisciplinary research department at the ​Vrije Universiteit Brussel​ (VUB). ​Founded in 1995 under the impetus of the Belgian philosopher Leo Apostel (1925-1995), the center aims at the integration of the different s​ cientific, social and cultural disciplines so as to counteract the present fragmentation into ever more specialised approaches.

Since its foundation, CLEA has attracted and trained a large number of researchers from the humanities, social sciences, physical sciences, and engineering, coming from countries across the world. ​They perform high level ​research​ on a wide variety of subjects, including the foundations of the physical sciences (and in particular quantum structures), the evolution of complexity, consciousness, cognition and creativity, the emergence of social systems, integrating worldviews, science and art, and intelligent networks. ​The center is currently running several research and educational programs including the School of Thinking, ArtScience research group, the Global Brain Institute, seminar series on Evolution, Complexity and Cognition, and the Thinking Cafés meetings.



11 Sept 2020 - 10 Jan 2021

Risquons-Tout is an ambitious, thematic group exhibition that explores the potential of transgression and unpredictability. It examines how art challenges the homogenisation of thought in the now infamous echo chambers of our overcrowded info-sphere.
Read more:

WIELS is the leading Centre for Contemporary Art in Brussels. Its high-quality exhibitions and side programme highlight contemporary artists and new ideas, offering new perspectives and frontier experiences. Each year WIELS welcomes about twenty artists in residence from Belgium and all over the world for a six months programme. WIELS also offers a strong mediation and education programme pursued through workshops, learning projects and seminars for children, teenagers, seniors, school groups, neighbourhood organisations and so forth. The diversity and the specificity of the activities of WIELS, taking place in such a remarkable building, make it a unique institution of contemporary art in Europe.