April 6 (via Zoom)

Page 68.
Why is there such widespread public opposition to science and scientific reasoning the the United States, the world leader in every major branch of science?

Jared Diamond
Professor of geography

Page 177.
How will the world be changed when battery storage technology improves at the same exponential rate seen in computer chips in recent decades?

John Markoff
Science reporter
The New York Times

Page 73.
Is it ultimately possible for life to bend the shape of the universe to fit life's purposes, as we are now bending the shape of the environment here on Earth?

Freeman Dyson
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

March 30 (via Zoom)

Page 226.
Will blockchain return us to the golden age of ownership of information licenses that can be resold like books and records?

Jordan Pollack
Professor of complex systems and chair of computer science
Brandeis University

Page 194.
If we discover another intelligent civilization what should we ask them?

Yuri Milner
Venture capitalist and science philanthropist

Page 160.
Has consciousness done more good or bad for humanity?

Joseph Ledoux
Professor of psychiatry
New York University

March 9

Discuss survey results.

Minilecture on ranked voting methods. Condorcet methods. Kemeny-Young. Arrow's impossibility theorem.

(19 voters, 13 choices, best orderings honor 571 preferences out of 876, 65.1%)
               loyalty to:   best worst average in 2000 tied orderings

            nuclear family    1    2    1.486 +- 0.500
                      self    1    2    1.514 +- 0.500
           extended family    3    3    3.000 +- 0.000
                   friends    4    4    4.000 +- 0.000
  a philosophy or morality    5    5    5.000 +- 0.000
         the human species    6    6    6.000 +- 0.000
                   society    7    8    7.512 +- 0.500
             city/hometown    7    9    7.859 +- 0.929
              an ethnicity    8    9    8.628 +- 0.483
     a geographical region   10   10   10.000 +- 0.000
               school/team   11   11   11.000 +- 0.000
                    nation   12   12   12.000 +- 0.000
                a religion   13   13   13.000 +- 0.000

Page 325.
How does the past give rise to the future?

Carl Zimmer
science reporter
New York Times

Page 146.
Is there any observational evidence that could shake your faith or lack thereof?

Brian G. Keating
Professor of Physics
University of California, San Diego

March 2

Page 4.
Are people who cheat vital to driving progress in human societies?

Alun Anderson
former Editor-in-Chief
New Scientist

Page 74.
Why are there no trees in the ocean?

George Dyson
Science historian, author

Page 82.
Will humans ever embrace their own diversity?

Daniel L. Everett
Dean of Arts and Sciences
Bentley University

This question led to a discussion of individuals' hierarchy of values. The class voted by individual preference-ordered lists. Analysis by the Kemeny-Young algorithm gave the results listed above.

February 24

Page 52.
If science does in fact confirm that we lack free will, what are the implications for our notions of blame, punishment, reward, and moral responsibility?

Jerry A. Coyne
Professor of Ecology and Evolution
University of Chicago

Page 179.
Will it ever be possible to download the information stored in the human brain?

Mario Livio

Page 81.
Will civilization collapse before I die?

Dylan Evans
Founder and CEO, Projection Point

February 17

Page 20.
What is the hard limit on human longevity?

Gregory Benford
Professor of Physics and Astronomy
UC Irvine
(also science fiction author)


Page 31.
Which questions should we not ask and not try to answer?

Nick Bostrom
Professor of Applied Ethics
Oxford University

Page 212.
What can humanity do right now that will make the biggest difference over the next billion years

Toby Ord
Philosopher, Oxford University

February 10

Bill P. out of town. No class today.

February 3

Page 75.
Can we create new senses for humans\not just touch, taste, vision, hearing, smell, but totally novel qualia for which we don't yet have words?

David M. Eagleman
Neuroscientist, Stanford

Page 134.
Why is the world so beautiful?

Nicholas Humphrey
Professor emeritus of psychology
London School of Economics

Page 184.
Why are people so seldom persuaded by clear evidence and rational argument?

Tim Maudlin
Professor of philosophy
New York University

January 27

Page 98.
How much time will pass between the last minute before artificial superintelligence and the first minute after it?

Bruno Giussani
European director and global curator, TED

Page 168.
Where were the laws of physics written before the universe was born?

Andrei Linde
Professor of physics, Stanford
Recipient of first Fundamental Physics Prize