The transformative powers of science and technology have dramatically altered the world we live in; the human print on nature has become a hallmark of our times. Of late, geologists have suggested naming our epoch the Anthropocene, a designation meant to signify the unparalleled impact of humankind on global ecosystems.
But as human technology and action leave their mark on the planet, the Anthropocene may also usher in a reckoning of the mark of science and technology on civilization itself. Already they are disturbing cultural concepts constitutive of our humanity: Neuroscience suggests a new understanding of morality and of feelings; genetics question individuality, race and kinship; and virtual reality challenges the very nature of what is real. The mark of technology is omnipresent: in the design of smart homes and cities that organize our public and private lives, in the ominous tentacles of surveillance, and in the communication revolution that has indelibly altered our relationship to knowledge and information, perhaps even thought. These and countless examples suggest that the Anthropocene is not only an epoch in geology; it also marks the self-impact of civilization on itself, on human nature and human practices. How, then, does life in the age of the Anthropocene change not only our geo-physiological habitat but also our understanding of ourselves? What are the normative implications of such an impact on nature and civilization?
To varying degrees, the transformative powers of science and technology are restrained by social forces and moral considerations. Ethical norms and politics present regulative frameworks for scientific discovery and technological innovation. From the debate on the teaching of evolution to the battles over drug regulation, and vaccinations; from pro-life/pro-choice protests to disputes over enhancement technologies and artificial intelligence, the transformative powers of science and technology find themselves contested. At the same time, traditional barriers between ethical, political, and techno-scientific forces are being redrawn, and in some cases erased. Precisely in the Anthropocene, where science and technology present the greatest opportunity yet to take control of our futures, we have become less certain of the origin and continuity of our values.
Israel serves as an instructive case for studying the interplay between the transformative and the normative. Israeli society is a hub of technological developments and fosters a self-image of scientific excellence. It also exercises unique regulations of science and technology. Science and technology played a key role in the Israeli nation-building and it scores high in international indices of science and development. it still features social aspects that differentiate it from other liberal societies that excel in scientific performance. These include diverse factors such as the involvement of the army in research and development, a continuing state of national conflict, the role of religiosity in the introduction of scientific innovations and the practice of new technologies, small society with limited natural resources, and unique political structure that features liberal and non-liberal features.
The "Science, Technology and Civilization" Cluster addresses the following questions:
1. The hybridization of social and biological entities in the formation of Self and Society
2. The expansion of civilization through the inclusion of non-human and of artificially intelligent actors
3. Figuring the Bios and the Ethics in the making of modern bioethics
4. The re-conceptualization of the environment-civilization nexus
5. The role of science and technology in the current political order
6. The role of religion in the introduction of new technological developments
7. The history of science, technology and civilization in Israel
8. The transformation of the constitutive concepts of modernity, such as subjectivity, autonomous agents, political participation, and privacy, due to the emergence of smart environments on the one hand and the destruction of the planet ecosystem on the other,
9. Climate change and the formulation of a new environmental ethics
10. Political and Cultural Patterns in "Science, Technology and Civilization" in Israel.