future considerations

In a bit of serendipity, MIT's Technology Review had a list of interesting things this weekend and they will serve to guide our conversations on Tuesday.

Weekend Reads: Global Catastrophes

Don’t be alarmed, but the world is at risk. Despite humanity’s best efforts to prosper, there are international threats—some man-made, others beyond our control—that could cripple or destroy modern life as we know it. This macabre trawl through the MIT Technology Review archive will help you work out which ones you really need to worry about.
  1. Our Fear of Artificial Intelligence. Every serious nerd worries about the technological singularity: the moment when an artificial superintelligence suddenly becomes so advanced that human civilization is changed beyond recognition. But how likely is that to happen, really?
  2. Where Are They?. Many people find the prospect of identifying alien life incredibly exciting. But Nick Bostrom, the director of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford, is terrified at the prospect. Here he explains why such a discovery could prove troubling for humankind.
  3. The Knowledge. Genetic engineering is more straightforward than ever. Most of the time it’s used with the best of intentions, but could terrorists tweak the genes of a virus or bacterium to make a pathogen that kills huge swaths of the global population?
  4. Hot and Violent. The climate is changing, and it will affect more than the weather. Research suggests that as temperatures rise, economies will slump, crop yields plummet, and inequality soar—increasing political tensions and the risk of widespread violence.
  5. The Rare-Earth Crisis. Our attempts to avoid a global climate meltdown requires an all-electric economy. But there lies a sticking point: the hardware that will power that brave new world demands minerals that are in short supply. What happens when they run out?
  6. The Extinction Invention. One of the most popular suggestions for eradicating malaria right now is a gene drive, in which disease-carrying mosquitoes would be genetically altered to kill off the population. Problem is, it could fundamentally change the world’s ecosystem.

Decide among your group members which of these topics is the most interesting to your group

We'll spend some time in groups deciding which topic will be led by which group, and then each of the six groups will take the lead in discussing their future topic with the rest of the class.

Plan to work in groups from 0945-1005, and then we'll have futures discussions from 1010-1045.

If your group doesn't think one of these topics is the most important to discuss, introduce and lead a discussion on a topic of your choice. But tie your topic and your discussion to the twin themes of information and organizations.