Quality of Life
Chairs: Professor Robert Harriss, President of the Houston Advanced Research Center and Professor Dimitri Nanopoulos, Mitchell/Heep Chair in High Energy Physics, Texas A&M University Centre
Main Speakers: Michael Mehaffy, Branco Milanovic, Dimitri Nanopoulos (co-chair), Aristides Patrinos, Sarah Rubidge, Nikos Salingaros, Walter Scheidel, Sander Van Der Leeuw, Stavros Zenios
Respondents: Panagiotis Doukellis, Andreas Mershin, Aemilia Papaphilippou, Katia Savrami
The Quality of Life theme explored the diachronic sense of Greek heritage that has informed scholarly understanding of quality of life and universal principles of sustainability past, present, and future. One of the great challenges for the 21st century is the integration of disciplinary knowledge into usable and universal principles for creative transitions to a higher quality of life in the diverse and growing humanity. Universal principles of sustainability are urgently needed to build a basis for a quality-of-life theory and indicators that, in turn, guide and inform citizens and their governing organizations.
The intellectual pathway from Aristotelian “universals” to our contemporary focus on delving deeply into disciplinary knowledge on “bits, atoms, neurons, and genes” has enormously enriched the sciences and simultaneously diminished a unity of knowledge beyond disciplines. A robust understanding of quality of life must acknowledge the elusiveness of truth in a fragmented view of the world and the complexity of desire for an overarching unity of knowledge. Our session on quality of life explored the economic, philosophical, and scientific basis for why certain types and specific works of art, architecture, and landscapes are highly preferred over others for long periods of human history. The integration across presentations attempted to reconcile disparate or contrary beliefs, often while melding practices of various intellectual schools of thought. Syncretism functioned as an essential feature of ancient Greek religion and today is extended to reconciling disparate or contrary beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought in the sciences, arts, humanities, and technology.
When we interpret human constructions as the representation of internal patterns, then the rich cultural heritage of humankind assumes the character of an “external memory” of the collective human mind throughout our history. This quality of life session clarified the role of systems, structures, behaviors, and the nature of mind, matter and human identity in determining the general well-being of individuals and societies.