In 1675, Willhelm Gottfried Leibniz penned “a funny thought”, in which he set forth his blueprint for a future public institution which would serve “as a means of perfection for arts and sciences”. This knowledge theatre – equal parts research, exhibition, and spectacle – would house a rolling programme of scientific marvels, wondrous inventions, and earthly delights.
In today’s intellectually turbulent times, Leibniz’s original vision reads like a challenge. The Institute of Unknown Purpose is our response: “a centre for the narrowly improbable”.
We find ourselves in good company – today, organisations such as the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, Long Now Foundation and Museum of Jurassic Technology are plumbing the farthest reaches of man’s role on earth and beyond. It is our hope that the IoUP can make a similarly positive contribution to humanity’s ongoing development.
Asa Calow and Professor James Crutchfield, August 2016