"How many things have been denied one day, only to become realities the next?" - Jules Verne
Less than a century after Jules Verne asked this question in his book 'From the Earth to the Moon', human kind was in space and not long after, walked on the Moon.
This is only one example of the blurring lines between science fiction and science reality - the topic of the House of Frankenstein evening.
In the 20 years the FNR has existed, it has committed 655 MEUR to research activities, funding 3650 projects - playing a key role in the development of Luxembourg's research sector. But: there are still many challenges to meet.
"It is because we [the FNR] want to tackle these challenges - not dismiss them behind closed doors - that we chose to organise tonight's event. We want to stimulate an open dialogue with society, between citizens and scientists - a balance reflected also in the guests this evening"
"Take time to slow down in this fast-paced world. Think critically. Trust science, but don't have blind faith in it" - Didier Goossens, FNR
Frankenstein stands at his dissection table, his hair tousled, his gaze confused, his shirt stained with blood. As he eagerly uses the bone saw, he proudly shows the guests a large preserving jar with two small balls swimming in its brown broth. "What we have here", he says with a disturbed laugh to the body lying in front of him, "is a pair of beautiful blue eyes - just for you..."
The story of Frankenstein is then applied to our current times – Viktor Frankenstein points out to the guests that thanks to CRISPR and human genome editing, he can now make his creation free of any ailments. However, is it that simple?
Now the audience – visiting the different rooms in groups – is asked to weigh in:
Who do you think should take responsibility and decide whether human genome editing should be done – and to what extent?
Yes, it could eradicate certain diseases, enhance plants, but it could have also unpredictable consequences, and sparks a range of ethical questions.
Frankie talks to the guests, explaining that it has learned that humans are social creatures, and that it could not understand human by just meeting them online.
Frankie wants to learn about human emotions.
The room gives food for thought – both about the increased digitalisation of our world, and way of communicating with each other, while also giving a taste of how AI may not feel emotions, but can ‘read them’, prompting the question:
What does it mean to be human in the age of AI?
As guests enter, Jules Verne is immersed in a deep sleep. When he wakes up, he is confronted not only with the visitors, but also with the present.
The French writer, considered a co-founder of science fiction literature, has simply missed out on the past 150 years.
While he is disappointed to learn that the journey to the center of the earth is still science fiction, he is all the more fascinated to learn humans have walked on the Moon.
He is over the Moon to meet a small lunar rover that will soon drive around on the Moon.
The room encourages guests to reflect on this example of how something that was merely science fiction has since become reality: space travel. If we skip 30-40 years into the future, how far may space travel and space mining have developed?
This room enabled guests to ‘draw the future’ – using interactive digital technology, guests were able to almost paint the air in the room.
Guests were asked to draw what they think things could look like in the future, anything from headphones, cars, to phones and more.
What does the future look like?
In the 19th century, there were plenty of these men-only clubs.
In House 17, this was the space (in fact, a bar) where the guests could relax, discuss (about anything), have a drink, listen to the pianist…
But, they may have gotten interrupted by FNR staff Michele Weber and Linda Wampach, both disguised as men, to talk about gender issues – be it in research or more generally in society.
A screen in the background projected portraits of female scientists worldwide (past and present) and statistics about Luxembourg.
Less than 30% of Luxembourg’s researchers are female, and even less women are active in the business research sector (12%).