Saturday, October 13, 2018 9:30 am - 1:15 pm
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong / Duke University
Computers answer my questions and give me directions as I drive. They decide who gets organs for transplantation and bail in criminal courts. They serve as companions for elderly and disabled, and they guide autonomous cars and weapons of war. Is it dangerous or immoral to leave all of these decisions to machines? Will computers make morally better decisions than humans do? Can artificial intelligence improve on human moral judgments? Will artificial intelligence systems or robots act in destructive ways?
We need to face all of these questions in the near future. The solution is to build morality into computers, but how can we do that? We will see.
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong is Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. He is core faculty in the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, the Duke Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, and the Duke Center for Interdisciplinary Decision Sciences. Professor Sinnott-Armstrong has received fellowships from the Harvard Program in Ethics and the Professions, the Princeton Center for Human Values, and the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics. He is the author of “Morality Without God?” and “Moral Skepticisms.”
Carol Berkin / Baruch College
Most of us know that America's Founding Fathers attended the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia and drafted the Constitution of the United States. The delegates decided to replace the Articles of Confederation with a document that strengthened the federal government, with the most contentious issue being legislative representation. Eventually, a compromise established the bicameral Congress to ensure both equal and proportional representation. But a lot more happened as well – much of it underreported or misunderstood. That's the focus of this insider's look at the birth of American Government as we know it today.
The fact is, the Founding Fathers were ambitious. Also grouchy, scared, and hopeful. They told jokes. They fought. They schemed. They gossiped. They improvised. Occasionally, they killed each other (sorry, Alexander Hamilton). Only by seeing the Founders as real people -not icons- can we appreciate the full story of the nation's founding with all of its drama, humor, and significance intact.
Carol Berkin is Presidential Professor of History at Baruch College and a member of the history faculty of the Graduate Center of CUNY. She has worked as a consultant on several PBS and History Channel documentaries, including, The “Scottsboro Boys,” which was nominated for an Academy Award. She has also appeared as a commentator on screen in the PBS series by Ric Burns, “New York,” the Middlemarch series “Benjamin Franklin” and “Alexander Hamilton” on PBS, and the MPH series, “The Founding Fathers.” She serves on the Board of The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Board of the National Council for History Education.
David Helfand / Columbia University
All the colors of the rainbow are but a tiny fraction of the "colors" of light the Universe sends us. Over the past 75 years, astronomers have been busy opening new windows on the cosmos by building telescopes and cameras that allow us to see all of these colors, revealing new phenomena previously unimagined. Very recently, we have opened entirely new channels of information by detecting gravity waves and by seeing the unseeable: directly imaging black holes. All of these messengers from the cosmos travel at the velocity of light, but even at this enormous speed, they take millions, or even billions of years to reach us. As a consequence, we are always seeing the past. Far from being a disadvantage, however, this allows us to read our history directly by looking out to objects at different distances.
We can watch stars being born, living out their lives, and then dying in spectacular explosions that produce the elements from which we are made as well as neutron stars and black holes. We can watch how galaxies form and grow by gobbling up their neighbors. And we can map the nearest million galaxies and trace them back to the tiny fluctuations in the early Universe from which they emerged. Replete with colliding galaxies and a fly-through of the Universe set to the Blue Danube waltz, this lecture provides one-stop shopping for a comprehensive tour of all of space and time — or at least of the whole 4% we actually understand.
David Helfand has been a Professor of Astronomy at Columbia University for 42 years where he served as chair of the Department for nearly half that time. He is also the former President of the American Astronomical Society and of Quest University Canada, and currently serves as Chair of the American Institute of Physics. He has received the Columbia Presidential Teaching Award and the Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates. He is the author of the new book, “A Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age.”