Killam Prize Symposium
Rideau Hall, Monday, November 18, 2013
Welcome, all of you, to Rideau Hall for the second Killam Prize Symposium. Last year’s discussion generated some very interesting debate, and I look forward to hearing from this year’s winners of the Killam Prize who are joining us here today.
These thinkers and researchers have made careers out of answering questions that some have not even dreamed to ask. Their curiosity drove them to discover, and they have. Together, these eminent minds cover a wide swath of human knowledge, including computing, vaccinology, conflict resolution, cognitive science, and our environment.
So what can we expect when we pose the following questions to these panelists: What do you see in everyday life that others do not see? What is significant but most of us are missing it?
As their backgrounds are diverse, I expect that we will hear some diverse answers.
And yet, I think we will come to understand that the fields they represent are not as disparate as they seem.
Let me quote Chris Hadfield, who earlier this year captured the imagination of Canadians as commander of the International Space Station. In his book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, he describes the earth as seen from above. He writes: “The windows of a spaceship casually frame miracles.…The secret patterns of our planet are revealed: mountains bump up rudely from ordinary plains, forests are green gashes edged with snow, rivers glint in the sunrise, twisting and turning like silvery worms. Continents splay themselves out whole, surrounded by islands sprinkled across the sea…”
I wanted to share with you an astronaut’s perspective of our world, one that shows us that even though we live in different cities or provinces or countries, even if we speak different languages, even if our experiences are varied and our understanding in one area or another is limited, we are all linked.
When you look at our planet from the heights achieved by astronauts, you see that there are no borders, no limits, no disconnect between countries or people, and therefore no disconnect between ideas.
What I mean is that knowledge is interconnected, feeding innovation across disciplines, and impacting research and understanding in other fields.
From that lofty view—and from ours, if we wish to make it so—we see the possibilities of collaboration are infinite.
Here we have a panel with specialized experience who speak a unique language according to their particular education, research and skills. Yet, they are all driven by similar goals: to better understand the world around us and to help those living in it.
So what do I see in everyday life? What is significant to me? My answer is: In a country and a world in flux, with complex problems never before seen in the history of this planet, we need science, creativity, invention and discussion to arrive at solutions. The Killam Prize Symposium is one way for us to share ideas, but more than that, to spark new ideas and co-operation.
We are all connected and thus have a great opportunity to work together to make this a smarter, more caring nation.
I hope that all of you will keep this in mind as we begin this symposium.