For the fourth time, the SURPRISE FACTORS SYMPOSIUM took place in 2014. The chief event in ACADEMIA SUPERIOR„s sched­ule attract­ed numer­ous guests who came to the Toscana Con­gress Gmunden, look­ing for­ward to expe­ri­enc­ing live dis­cus­sions with experts. This year„s sym­po­sium was held under the head­ing „Beyond bor­ders — the strength to emerge from crises.“ The range of the experts invit­ed was as wide as the spec­trum of top­ics on the agen­da. The sig­nif­i­cance of bound­aries was dis­cussed by Tyrolean moun­taineer Peter Habel­er, Ger­man cul­tur­al and lit­er­ary schol­ar Eva Horn, US-Amer­i­can sys­tem the­o­rist John Casti and for­mer Czech for­eign min­is­ter Karel Schwarzenberg.

Once again the dis­cus­sions were host­ed and capa­bly mod­er­at­ed by Markus Hengstschläger, geneti­cist and aca­d­e­m­ic direc­tor of ACADEMIA SUPERIOR, and Alan Web­ber, busi­ness jour­nal­ist and entrepreneur.

Results of the experts” discussion

Aca­d­e­m­ic dia­logue and the plea­sure of explor­ing new fron­tiers were at the core of this year„s SURPRISE FACTORS SYMPOSIUM. Even though all the experts agreed that bound­aries are impor­tant for the indi­vid­ual as well as for soci­ety, cross­ing bound­aries is an essen­tial part of broad­en­ing our hori­zon. Espe­cial­ly in the com­pe­ti­tion between regions Upper Aus­tria can only pre­vail if deci­sion-mak­ers in pol­i­tics and econ­o­my ven­ture out­side their „com­fort zones“ and explore new ter­ri­to­ry. Schwarzen­berg, who is extreme­ly knowl­edge­able on Euro­pean issues, specif­i­cal­ly warned that EU mem­ber states can only pre­pare for the future if they invest a much larg­er part of their bud­gets in the edu­ca­tion of young peo­ple. This issue is also cru­cial for Upper Aus­tria as a loca­tion of uni­ver­si­ties and colleges.

The world eco­nom­ic cri­sis has shown that extreme events, so-called X‑events, unleash tremen­dous forces and often hit states, regions and peo­ple unpre­pared. How­ev­er, the lat­ter can be avoid­ed. With prog­nos­tic meth­ods, with the help of sys­tem analy­sis but also with uncon­ven­tion­al meth­ods — e.g. the analy­sis of cat­a­stro­phe lit­er­a­ture — future X‑events may at least be pre­sumed. Also, a con­trolled induc­tion or a sim­u­la­tion of poten­tial extreme events may be help­ful. In the fight against crises, Upper Aus­tria has dis­tinct geo­graph­i­cal and demo­graph­i­cal advan­tages that can be explained by the rel­a­tive small­ness of the coun­try: The big­ger and more com­plex a sys­tem, the more vul­ner­a­ble it is to crises and cat­a­stro­phes, says John Casti. Thus, the phrase „Small is beau­ti­ful“ describes a sub­stan­tial loca­tion­al advan­tage. Deci­sion-mak­ers in pol­i­tics and econ­o­my are well advised to be con­stant­ly aware of this fact.

Cross­ing bound­aries can also be a valu­able expe­ri­ence for indi­vid­u­als. Only those who expose them­selves to sit­u­a­tions which do not con­form to their own idea of „nor­mal“ and „every­day life“ can devel­op as human beings. To put it in the words of Peter Habel­er: „Moti­va­tion is cru­cial. When I„m stand­ing on the sum­mit, when I have over­come the lim­its, the reward is immense.“

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