|The Impact of Chaos on Science and Society (UNU, 1997, 415 pages)|
Heitor Gurgulino de Souza
Rector, The United Nations University
Welcome, participants, distinguished guests and observers, to the international symposium on "The Impact of Chaos on Science and Society." This conference is the first one of a new series of events planned by the United Nations University on "Frontiers in Science and Technology."
The Charter of the United Nations University requires us to give "due attention to the social sciences and the humanities as well as natural sciences, pure and applied." However, it is a rare occasion to have all of these fields represented together at one meeting as will be the case for the next three days.
The United Nations University is a young institution with a university centre established in Tokyo in 1975 following a recommendation in 1969 by U Thant, the then Secretary-General of the United Nations. It was designed to be truly international and devoted to peace and progress. For mobilizing international scholarly resources, however, a completely new kind of academic institution was required. Accordingly, today the work of the UNU is not limited to its university centre here in Tokyo, but it pursues its objectives through worldwide networks of scholars as well as through Research and Training Centres and Programmes in Helsinki, Maastricht, Nairobi, Macau, and Caracas, with others to follow around the world and particularly an Institute of Advanced Studies, to be located next to our headquarters here in Tokyo.
UNU's research and postgraduate training programmes are addressing global issues and their implications for the world community. Thus, global environmental change, third world development, cross-national implications of science and technology as well as governance of growing mega-cities are among the objects of our attention. The increased awareness of the complexities underlying these issues requires multidisciplinary and new scientific approaches, sophisticated models, new ways of thinking and of perceiving our natural and social environments. The concept of ´chaos' has become part of this new thinking in many disciplines as will be illustrated at this meeting.
The objective of this symposium is to explore the impact of the emerging science of chaos on various disciplines and the resulting broader implications for science and society. Thus, the specific focus will not be the technical aspects of chaos, but rather its broader relevance. The characteristic of chaos is its universality and ubiquity. At this meeting, for example, we have scholars representing mathematics, physics, biology, geophysics and geophysiology, astronomy, medicine, psychology, meteorology, engineering, computer science, economics, and social sciences. I can recall only very few occasions where we had so many different disciplines gathered at an academic meeting. One of them was our symposium on "The science and praxis of complexity," which we held with Ilya Prigogine and others in 1984 in Montpellier and which served as a precedent for this meeting.
Having so many disciplines meeting together, of course, involves the risk that we might not always speak the same language, even if all of us have come to talk about "chaos." However, I think, we have to take such risks in pursuing new ideas and scientific paths. In our complex world, not everything is calculable and predictable. There would not be room for creativity if it were.
This meeting is an experiment for the UNU, a little out of the usual type of conferences we normally organize on very specific problems of global concern. To have a forum for experiments like this is the rationale behind our new seminar series on "Frontiers of Science and Technology."
I am grateful for the support we received from our co-organizer, the University of Tokyo, and my thanks go particularly to Professor Akito Arima, President of the University, for supporting the idea since the beginning and for providing these facilities and to Professor Shun-ichi Amari of the Department of Mathematical Engineering and Information Physics whose support was essential for convening the meeting. I am also grateful for the help we received from our international advisers, Professor Celso Grebogi (who is with us today) and Professor James Yorke of the University of Maryland. Both of them will have the challenging task of bringing together the diverse approaches to chaos from all the different scientific disciplines represented here this week in a single comparative book which will be published as a result of our meeting.
I am sure that these three days of contacts among yourselves will strengthen ties that may already exist between you and will provide links that will grow in the future with those you will be meeting for the first time. Finally, I hope that you will also familiarize yourselves with the United Nations University and provide your continued support to our common institutions in the years to come. Before giving the floor to our host, Professor Arima, I wish you a successful meeting. I hope to be able to talk to many of you personally during the intervals of the working sessions and at the reception given for our invited speakers tonight.
Thank you all for coming.