Universiteit van Amsterdam

Zeeman lecture by Jürgen Renn

31 oktober 2019


The lecture examines the possible role of the history of science in understanding the Anthropocene. It argues that a broad array of approaches is needed to cope with the social, material, and epistemic dimensions of the ongoing global transformation processes – rather than the next fashionable turn. It sketches an approach to cultural evolution to which knowledge and its transformations are central, as well as a new approach to historical network analysis. Against this background, several pathways into the Anthropocene are being discussed. Human interventions in Earth system cycles and the emergence of feedback loops responsible for the onset of self-accelerating dynamics are considered to be crucial drivers of the Anthropocene. Their investigation could become the subject of a new transdisciplinary field: geoanthropology. The Anthropocene may also be characterized by the increasing dependence of cultural evolution on the generation of appropriate science-based knowledge. This may require a radical transformation of the current knowledge economy, adequate to epistemic evolution, possibly the next stage in a cascade of evolutionary processes, following biological and cultural evolution.

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