Classes

    Prediction: The Past and Present of the Future (Gen Ed 1112)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2021

    How and why do humans try to divine their own futures?

     

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    Alyssa Goodman

    Human beings are the only creatures in the animal kingdom properly defined as worriers. We are the only ones who expend tremendous amounts of time, energy, and resources trying (sometimes obsessively) to understand our futures before they happen. While the innate ability of individual people to predict has not changed much in the past few millennia, developments in mathematical and conceptual models have inordinately improved predictive systems.... Read more about Prediction: The Past and Present of the Future (Gen Ed 1112)

    Brains, Identity, and Moral Agency (Gen Ed 1064)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2021

    Can we reconcile the scientific 'brain as a machine' view with our strong experience of moral agency?

     

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    Steven Hyman

    Advances in brain science have the potential to diminish many forms of human suffering and disability that are rooted in disordered brain function. But what are the ethical implications involved in altering the structure and function of human brains? What’s at stake when we have the ability to alter a person’s narrative identity, create brain-computer interfaces, and manipulate social and moral emotion? In this course, you will ask and attempt to answer these questions, and discuss the implications of mechanistic explanations of decision-making and action for widely-held concepts of moral agency and legal culpability.... Read more about Brains, Identity, and Moral Agency (Gen Ed 1064)

    Human Evolution and Human Health (Gen Ed 1027)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2021

    How did the human body evolve to be the way it is, and how does that evolutionary history influence how we can promote health and prevent disease?

     

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    Daniel Lieberman

    How and why did humans evolve to be the way we are, and what are the implications of our evolved anatomy and physiology for human health in a post-industrial world? Why do we get sick, and how can we use principles of evolution to improve health and wellbeing?... Read more about Human Evolution and Human Health (Gen Ed 1027)

    Evolving Morality: From Primordial Soup to Superintelligent Machines (Gen Ed 1046)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2021

    How can we understand the evolution of morality—from primordial soup to superintelligent machines—and how might the science of morality equip us to meet our most pressing moral challenges?

     

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    Joshua D. Greene

    In this course we’ll examine the evolution of morality on Earth, from its origins in the biology of unthinking organisms, through the psychology of intelligent primates, and into a future inhabited by machines that may be more intelligent and better organized than humans. First, we ask: What is morality?... Read more about Evolving Morality: From Primordial Soup to Superintelligent Machines (Gen Ed 1046)

    Life as a Planetary Phenomenon (Gen Ed 1070)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2021

    Is there alien life beyond Earth?

     

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    Dimitar Sasselov

    What is it about Earth that enables life to thrive? This question was reinvigorated with the 2016 ground-breaking discovery of a habitable planet around the nearest star, Proxima Centauri. A decade of exploration confirmed that such planets are common in our galaxy, and the commonality of habitable planets has raised anew some age-old questions: Where do we come from? What is it to be human? Where are we going? Are we alone in the universe?... Read more about Life as a Planetary Phenomenon (Gen Ed 1070)

    Artificial and Natural Intelligence (Gen Ed 1125)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2021

    What does it mean for a machine to be intelligent, how does current artificial intelligence compare with animal intelligence, and should we be worried?

     

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    Venkatesh Murthy

    What is intelligence? An inquiry into the nature of intelligence can take different forms – philosophical, biological, mathematical or technological. In this course, we will use machine intelligence (everything from voice recognizing smartphones to game-playing computers) as a handle to think about natural intelligence (brains and behavior of animals). Although we will start with big, general questions, we will quickly move to concrete queries about brains and computers.... Read more about Artificial and Natural Intelligence (Gen Ed 1125)

    World Health: Challenges and Opportunities (Gen Ed 1063)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2021

    How can we acquire an interdisciplinary understanding of population health by learning to ask the right questions?

     

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    Sue Goldie

    Extraordinary changes in the world present both risks and opportunities to health—unprecedented interconnections across borders, rapidly shifting global demographics, and changing patterns of diseases and injuries. This course will challenge your assumptions about the world’s populations, as you discover surprising similarities and unexpected differences between and within countries.... Read more about World Health: Challenges and Opportunities (Gen Ed 1063)

    Ancestry: Where do we come from and why do we care? (Gen Ed 1014)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2021

    How does ancestry affect our opportunities, our rights, and our sense of who we are?

     

    Histories, Societies, Individuals icon with text Science & Technology in Society icon with text

    Maya Jasanoff

    Everyone comes from somewhere. We carry our ancestries in our DNA, genealogy, family stories, and more. What do these forms of evidence tell us about who we are, as a species, as a social group, or as an individual? This course looks at ancestry from a range of perspectives: biology, anthropology, genealogy, history, law, and memory—from the origins of human populations to the origins of you.... Read more about Ancestry: Where do we come from and why do we care? (Gen Ed 1014)

    Scientific Critical Thinking (Gen Ed 1024)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2021

    How can we (as individuals and as whole societies) better incorporate into our thinking and decision making the problem-solving techniques characteristic of science at its best?

     

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    Edward J. Hall and Douglas Finkbeiner

    We humans have developed rational and systematic methods for solving problems, ways carefully designed to chart a reliable path to the truth. Yet we as individuals, as groups, as whole societies fail to take full advantage of these methods.... Read more about Scientific Critical Thinking (Gen Ed 1024)

    The Challenge of Human Induced Climate Change: Transitioning to a Post Fossil Fuel Future (Gen Ed 1137)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2021

    What can we do now to avoid the most serious consequences of climate change, which poses an immediate problem for global society?

     

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    Michael B. McElroy

    Human induced climate change has the potential to alter the function of natural ecosystems and the lives of people on a global scale. The prospect lies not in the distant future but is imminent. Our choice is either to act immediately to change the nature of our global energy system (abandon our dependence on fossil fuels) or accept the consequences (included among which are increased incidence of violent storms, fires, floods and droughts, changes in the spatial distribution and properties of critical ecosystems, and rising sea level).... Read more about The Challenge of Human Induced Climate Change: Transitioning to a Post Fossil Fuel Future (Gen Ed 1137)