Helga Nowotny

Helga Nowotny is former President of the European Research Council and author of Insatiable Curiosity: Innovation in a Fragile Future (MIT Press) and other books.

  • Naked Genes

    Naked Genes

    Reinventing the Human in the Molecular Age

    Helga Nowotny and Giuseppe Testa

    The interaction between new forms of biological life and new forms of social life in modern democracies.

    The molecular life sciences are making visible what was once invisible. Yet the more we learn about our own biology, the less we are able to fit this knowledge into an integrated whole. Life is divided into new sub-units and reassembled into new forms: from genes to clones, from embryonic stages to the building-blocks of synthetic biology. Extracted from their scientific and social contexts, these new entities become not only visible but indeed “naked”: ready to assume an essential status of their own and take on multiple values and meanings as they pass from labs to courts, from patent offices to parliaments and back.

    In Naked Genes, leading science scholar Helga Nowotny and molecular biologist Giuseppe Testa examine the interaction between these dramatic advances in the life sciences and equally dramatic political reconfigurations of our societies. Considering topics ranging from assisted reproduction and personalized medicine to genetic sports doping, they reveal both surprising continuities and radical discontinuities between the latest advances in the life sciences and long-standing human traditions.

    • Hardcover $30.00
    • Paperback $22.00
  • Insatiable Curiosity

    Insatiable Curiosity

    Innovation in a Fragile Future

    Helga Nowotny

    An influential scholar in science studies argues that innovation tames the insatiable and limitless curiosity driving science, and that society's acute ambivalence about this is an inevitable legacy of modernity.

    Curiosity is the main driving force behind scientific activity. Scientific curiosity, insatiable in its explorations, does not know what it will find, or where it will lead. Science needs autonomy to cultivate this kind of untrammeled curiosity; innovation, however, responds to the needs and desires of society. Innovation, argues influential European science studies scholar Helga Nowotny, tames the passion of science, harnessing it to produce “deliverables.” Science brings uncertainties; innovation successfully copes with them. Society calls for both the passion for knowledge and its taming. This ambivalence, Nowotny contends, is an inevitable result of modernity. In Insatiable Curiosity, Nowotny explores the strands of the often unexpected intertwining of science and technology and society. Uncertainty arises, she writes, from an oversupply of knowledge. The quest for innovation is society's response to the uncertainties that come with scientific and technological achievement. Our dilemma is how to balance the immense but unpredictable potential of science and technology with our acknowledgement that not everything that can be done should be done. We can escape the old polarities of utopias and dystopias, writes Nowotny, by accepting our ambivalence—as a legacy of modernism and a positive cultural resource.

    • Hardcover $30.00
    • Paperback $20.00