Archive: Science Summit 2019

A look back on the Falling Walls Conference 2019

For the eleventh consecutive year, the Falling Walls Conference brought 20 international top-class researchers working in the natural sciences, humanities, business and technology to Berlin to describe their latest breakthrough findings and their global impact in just 15 minutes each. Taking place on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and led by the question “Which are the next walls to fall?”, the conference fosters an interdisciplinary, cross-border exchange between science and society in order to address pressing issues.

During the main programme, 18 speakers from diverse disciplines presented their scientific breakthroughs. Shep Doeleman of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics talked about achieving a milestone in astrophysics with the first photo of a black hole. Mark Post of Maastricht University explained the revolutionary approach he is pursuing with a pioneering method to produce cultured meat. Also looking at food-related issues was Segenet Kelemu of the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology, Nairobi, who presented the highly relevant benefits of consuming insects – a food source which is both high in protein and globally available. Each researcher showed a different way to sustainably provide food for the world in times of accelerating climate change and dwindling resources.

Harvard economist Shoshana Zuboff called for the defence of freedom in times of surveillance capitalism. Former Google manager and artificial intelligence expert Meredith Whittaker, of the AI Now Institute, issued an appeal for collective action to establish ethical guidelines for the development of AI worldwide.

One of the most emotional moments at the conference was the appearance of paraplegic patient David Mzee, who can walk again thanks to a spinal cord implant developed by an international research team led by Grégoire Courtine and Jocelyne Bloch (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne and Lausanne University Hospital). Other significant contributions included recent findings on finding malaria, the possibilities of quantum computing and the need for sustainable consumption in developing and industrialised countries.

The 2019 Falling Walls Science Summit was held on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The event was opened by Oxford historian Timothy Garton Ash, who gave an impressive talk on the political and social developments that have occurred since 1989.

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Breakthrough Talks 2019


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