”The Age to Come” was the theme of this year’s Nobel Week Dialogue, in Stockholm. I hadn’t quite figured what this edition might have in store for us, even after scanning through the schedule. During my busy work weeks, I was looking forward to this necessary distraction.
After an early morning bus (3.45 AM!) from Gothenburg to Stockholm, the day long event was one jam packed affair, and full of surprises. Biology and Economics of ageing is what the discussions were centered around, all through the day. Fascinating ideas about the science behind ageing – the physiological changes, the physical transformations, the evolutionary purpose and the genetic analysis of ageing were discussed by eminent and erudite academicians from a wide spectrum of sciences, many of whom were Nobel laureates. Science, as always was fascinating to say the least. To learn about one’s most certain future from a scientific perspective is humbling – A sense of comprehension about the amalgam of atoms that we are certainly takes us closer to nature. Decline in cognitive abilities as we age, the frailty in our systems and the vulnerabilities of diseases were presented, with the terrific work that is going on to allievate lives of the elderly was the consistent theme of the science speakers, and panels.
On the other hand, the economists were adding up the fiscal burden (or returns) due to ageing population. Although I was initially cynical about their views, I did grasp the problem of labour and capital in a steadily ageing society (of the West). Just to give you an idea of what the essence of their analysis was, think about the number of years you would be engaged in labour (in the market sense) – European average is around 25 to 65, that is 40 years of productive labour. And the average life span has been pushed to touch 90 in Europe now. This implies people do not work for 50 years in their life of 90. The deficit of 10 working years in every one’s life must be balanced, and the economics panels were debating about possible solutions – increasing retirement age to 75, given that science keeps the elderly active and cognitively enabled? And more interesting ideas.
Although the event was free to attend for students in Sweden, Chalmers had organised a competition for Chalmerists for some reserved seats. Many students who won this competition and also had applied voluntarily participated in this event from across Sweden to get to Stockholm for the dialogue. As a student ambassador, we got access to some late seats, and I happily hopped on 🙂
What is spectacular about a star studded event like the Nobel Week Dialogue is not just the effort of bringing a panel of erudite scholars, artists and Nobel laureates; it is the crucial dialogue that does take place. Events like these certainly shape ideas for the future.
You can watch all the videos from the event on this channel.