Selected Fields 2014

Past - History & Memory

Past14The relationship between history and memory has emerged in the second half of the 20th century as one of most enduring questions within historical study.    The question of how the past shapes and is shaped by the present is ever-present in the way historians today undertake their work.  

History and memory are far from coterminous:  Memory is distinguished as being paired with forgetting, and as such is a mechanism which selectively deploys the past to bear on the present.  It is also critical to the present in its malleability:  Memory of a supposed past is strongly shaped by present perceptions.   The work of the historian today is as much that of teasing apart the threads of memory, history, and present perception as it is the excavating and recording of historical fact.   Moreover, historical narratives must themselves be understood as products of, and in dialogue with, the multiple ways in which the past has been “remembered,” re-remembered, and deployed by various individuals, groups, and national collectivities alike. 

Attention to the role of memory in history is now a central preoccupation of the discipline, and one of the most important tasks of the historian today is teasing out this complicated relationship and exploring the ways in which history, memory, and historical memory inform and shape one another.  Revisionist histories; the unearthing of new archival materials to reassess past events, narratives, and debates; works of historiography; new periodizations of history and new framings of geography; memoirs – in the discipline of history the past decades have seen an efflorescence of such approaches, and all are ultimately engaged in the question of history and memory. 

The 2014 Dan David Prize in the field of History will be awarded to an outstanding individual who has made a significant contribution to the understanding of the interplay between history and memory, and between contemporary perceptions and narratives of the past.  

 

 

Present - Combatting Memory Loss

Present14

All forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, affect millions of people across the globe. This debilitating progressive brain disorder, leading to memory loss, disorientation, confusion and behavioral changes, poses great challenges for the research and clinical communities. It has become increasingly clear that dementia develops because of a complex series of events that take place in the brain over a long period of time including genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.

Intense scientific research, mainly on Alzheimer’s disease, started over 100 years ago. These studies identified the three hallmarks of this disease, namely, amyloid plaques, neurofibrillary tangles (both composed of brain proteins with an altered structure) and loss of connections between cells in certain regions of the brain that are important in memory. This leads to diminished cell function and cell death.

Recent advances in the field include identification of genes that play an important role in the development of memory loss and the development of biomarkers that revolutionize the ability to detect early onset. There is great research emphasis on associations between cognitive decline and vascular and metabolic conditions. This will help to understand whether reducing risk factors for these conditions may help to combat memory loss.

Current medical treatments can help to lessen symptoms and temporarily improve quality of life in patients suffering from memory loss, but there is yet no treatment to eliminate or neutralize underlying causes. New drugs under development are focusing on the actual modification of the disease process with the aim of slowing or stopping it.

The 2014 Dan David Prize for the Present Time Dimension in the field of Combatting Memory Loss will be awarded to an outstanding individual who has made a significant contribution to the understanding of memory loss and continues to pioneer the way forward to finding a solution.

 

Future - Artificial Intelligence, The Digital Mind

future14The hypothesis that human intelligence can be simulated by a machine has existed for a long time. John McCarthy (1927 –2011) a computer scientist and cognitive scientist coined the term Artificial Intelligence (AI) in 1955, which was defined by him as: "the science and engineering of making intelligent machines". In today’s nomenclature AI can be described as the study and design of intelligent agents that perceive the environment and perform actions that maximize chances of success.

AI research is highly specialized and divided into subfields. Different aspects of the field include: Human-Computer Interface automated reasoning and inference, case-based reasoning, commonsense reasoning, high-level computer vision, intelligent interfaces, intelligent robotics, machine learning, natural language processing, planning and theories of action, Reasoning under Uncertainty etc.

AI has been applied in a wide range of fields. However, many AI applications have not been perceived as AI. As of the late 1990’s, thousands of AI applications have been deeply embedded in the infrastructure of every industry but the field has not always been credited for these successes. Among others AI is applied in the finance industry, medicine, telecommunications, toys and games and aviation to name but a few.

The 2014 Dan David Prize for the Future Time Dimension in the field of Artificial Intelligence will be awarded to an outstanding individual who has made a ground breaking, significant contribution to any major aspect of Artificial Intelligence and continues to advance this field.