By @SimonCocking Great interview with Andrea Bandelli. Maphutha is my African name, meaning ‘the one who brings people together’. Which I do, as executive director at Science Gallery International.

What is your background briefly?

I graduated in Economics in 1994. At the beginning of the 90’s I was also working in a science museum in Italy designing their website, at a time where there were probably a few hundreds websites in total in the world. I remember there was a page with a handy list of all the museum websites in the world – we all knew each other.

I built my career in the science museum field, I moved to Amsterdam in 1995 and got to work with some of the largest museums in Europe and USA, managing collaborative projects to communicate contemporary sciences, like nanotechnology, genetic engineering, climate change etc. For the past 20 years my work has focused on public engagement with contemporary science and international networks of museums, universities and research centers.
I also deepened my academic knowledge in this field, getting a PhD in social sciences, with a research on scientific citizenship.

Does it seem like a logical background to what you do now?

Definitely! Sometimes I think I prepared for 20 years for the job I have now!

1 min pitch for what you are doing now?

I work with some of the best people in the world to unlock the creativity of young adults globally through science and art. We manage the worldwide network that embeds the Science Gallery method in the university and higher education systems throughout the world.

What’s the plan for Science Gallery international?

1) To support and connect our current members – for instance, next year Science Gallery London is opening their permanent location, Science Gallery Bengaluru is starting construction of their custom-made facility, and our first Science Gallery Lab in Detroit will commence public activity. We support the mutual learning and collaboration of all our members.

2) To bring Science Gallery to all continents – for instance we’re actively working with universities in Latin America and Africa to enlarge our network, and we tour exhibitions developed by Science Gallery to dozens of museums and art centers worldwide.

3) To keep learning and innovating on the Science Gallery model – with evaluation and research on the impact on its constituencies (young adults, researchers, scientists etc).

How were the last 12 months? How is it going / what were your big wins?

It’s been incredible. Very intense and very rewarding. Big wins where the launch of our first Science Gallery Lab in Detroit – the first Science Gallery project in North America, and the first experiment with a “pop-up” concept for Science Gallery. Another big win was the appointment of 2 extraordinary women to lead Science Gallery Venice and Science Gallery Bengaluru. Now 4 of the 5 directors of the permanent Science Gallery are women, who are also incredible role models for young people. And finally a big win was being invited as a Cultural Leader to the World Economic Forum in Davos last January and again in Dalian last June – it’s a sign of the incredible reputation that Science Gallery International has today.

Tell us about the 4IR Bio Lab’, a space where Meeting participants could explore the potential futures of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. What were you aiming to communicate? & how was it received?

The 4IR Bio Lab was a space at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions to explore and reflect on the role of technology and innovation. It is our shared responsibility to shape technology in a way that respects our values. The 4IR Bio Lab offered world leaders the opportunity to have an emotional encounter with possible directions for technology and experience how we feel about those developments.

I wrote a piece published by the World Economic Forum in which I describe in more detail the rationale behind the exhibition.

The reactions were incredibly positive. We had a lot of participants coming multiple times to visit the exhibition and to talk with us, and many said this was one of the highlights of the conference. A lot of high profile people came to visit us too, including Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, and the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations, as well as Klaus Schwab, the chairman of the World Economic Forum, and his wife Hilde Schwab who is a strong advocate of arts and culture at the Forum.

The feedback we received shows that we reached our goal to make people think and reflect. Our exhibitions do not want to “teach” but instead to empower people to understand why science and technology are fundamental in our society.

What are you excited about in terms of future technology?

The developments in neurosciences are really fascinating – we are not far away from building working interfaces that directly connect our minds with each other and with external computing devices. But it’s really the convergence of digital technologies, life sciences, and material sciences which is fascinating, and is creating opportunities which are still unknown. AI is a case in point – it’s completely changing the way we work and communicate, and therefore it makes us re-think the way we live together and how we build a society.

What are your thoughts on increasing levels of AI, robotics and automation in the context of industry 4.0 and the future role of humans? Does a universal social wage seem realistic / a good idea / something we should be considering?

In Davos I was impressed by the conversations about the impact of AI on industry. There’s no doubt that a lot of businesses will rely on far less people to work there. The CEOs of some major companies told me very frankly that they’ve reached capacity – they will not hire any more people in order to grow their business. There will be certainly a whole new range of jobs created by the developments in AI, but it’s also necessary to start thinking about completely new ways to organize our society, and the universal basic income seems a logical way of doing it.

In fact, the winter exhibition at Science Gallery Dublin “Humans Need Not Apply” investigated precisely this kind of scenarios. One of the artworks on display was the “minimum wage machine” – a machine that would pay you the hourly minimum wage for as long as you turn its handle. It’s an ironic take on the fact that many jobs are extremely repetitive and sometimes even unnecessary, and it provoked a lot of conversations about why not having instead a minimum wage for humans and leave the work to the machines?

On the positive side, we never had so many people needed to install and fix the machine in the show, which means that there’s still hope for human work – at least to program and fix the machines!

Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked you?

An important thing to say is that the work we do at Science Gallery International needs the support of those who will benefit from it – especially the industries and businesses that need a smarter generation of young people in the near future to work for and with them.
Today Science Gallery International is a powerful story of creativity and world leadership, which was born in Ireland at Trinity College and has gone global. But the only way to maintain this leadership is to invest in it, and to ensure it keeps innovating. We have a unique spot on the global stage, of which we’re incredibly proud of.

Irish universities produce world class digital technology research, Chris Horn. Digital Transformation Conference keynote, June 8th


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