The Society domain focuses on where we as mankind stand. In the past, we turned to gods to avert diseases, hunger, and catastrophes. Now the realization has come that we ourselves are the most important force that influences (and threatens) life on earth. Some say that we have arrived in a very new geological period: the Anthropocene. A time where not the Earth dominates mankind, but mankind dominate the Earth.
This era raises important new questions: how does mankind deal with all the new finds and technologies? What are the opportunities, but also what are the risks? And who ultimately decides on the applicability? What if robots make our lives easier, but at the same time make so many jobs disappear that society changes so much due to large unemployment? And what is the risk that terrorists and dictators also learn how to tinker with genetic material?
Technological progress inevitably leads to questions about control. Because who will judge the opportunities and risks of new discoveries that affect us all, and who will check what happens next? Will scientists, employed by universities or companies, or CEO’s in Silicon Valley, be deciding what is good for us? Or is independent, democratic control needed? Now that technology no longer seems to be a limiting factor, but only a matter of time, the ancient doctrine of ethics and morality will become more important than ever.
Photographer Matthieu Asselin shows his famous project ‘Monsanto’ at BredaPhoto Festival, which draws attention to the consequences of impunity, both for people and the environment. Sheng-Wen-Lo, from Taiwan, asks a number of justified ethical questions regarding our behavior towards animals in his contribution to the festival. For example in his much-praised series White Bear, about polar bears in captivity in various European and Chinese zoos.