Protecting free thinking: A statement made during Falling Walls Conference 2019

Falling Walls Conference. Berlin, 09.11.2019. Copyright: Florian Gaertner/ photothek.net

A photo with a powerful symbolism worldwide: more than 700 leading scientists and distinguished representatives from across business and politics from around the world were gathering at our Falling Walls Conference in Berlin on 9 November to call for free thinking in science and society.

The participating researchers include the British historian Timothy Garton Ash, who opened the conference together with Sebastian Turner, the founder of the Falling Walls Foundation. “Thirty years ago this Saturday, we entered a new era with the fall of the Wall. Now, as the world finds itself in a state of crisis, we need the optimistic, liberal spirit of 1989 to overcome it. That’s why I think this slogan is so important. Let’s protect free thinking,” says Timothy Garton Ash.

“The knowledge generated by science and research provides the basis for the public to form opinions and for governments to make decisions. Free, impartial thinking is fundamental here, and it is an asset that must be protected more than ever. We want to take a stand on this today,” says Sweelin Heuss, Managing Director of the Falling Walls Foundation.

The time and location could have not be more appropriate: All around the German capital, institutions, inhabitants and visitors celebrated the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on that day. To commemorate the occasion eleven years ago, the Falling Walls Foundation was founded as a platform for interdisciplinary research with the aim of asking and answering questions about humanity’s most pressing issues. This year’s distinguished speakers and thought leaders include Shoshana Zuboff of Harvard Business School, speaking on surveillance capitalism; Mark Post of Maastricht University, discussing lab-grown meat; and Faith Osier, who is working on a radical breakthrough for the malaria vaccine.

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