From Mexico to India, San Francisco to Tokyo, natural disasters have shaped both the surface of our planet and the development of civilizations. These catastrophes claim thousands of lives and cause tens of billions of dollars in damage each year, and the impact of natural disasters is only increasing as a result of human population growth and urbanization. This course uses the methods and skills associated with earth science to help you to develop an understanding of both the causes and impacts of these events.... Read more about Natural Disasters (Gen Ed 1098)
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)
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)
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)
How do we analyze the health of global populations in a time of unprecedented crisis, and create new policies that address the social, political, economic, and environmental dimensions of health in an increasingly interdependent world?
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)
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)
Facing the edifice of preexisting knowledge, how are breakthrough scientific discoveries made that contradict the existing canon? Twelve great experiments that have transformed our understanding of nature will guide us, first through immersion in the scholarship and popular beliefs of the time. Next, how did the discoverer prepare? What were the motivations, prior experiences, and training that led to the threshold of a fruitful advance?... Read more about Experiments that Changed Our World (Gen Ed 1037)
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)
What makes a human? A baby develops from a single cell during the nine months of gestation, but the process that begins so simply has complications that stretch beyond the womb into questions of human identity and individuality.... Read more about The First Nine Months (Gen Ed 1084)
Stress is a universal human experience. What is stress and why do we experience it? How does stress influence our emotions and the way we think and behave? What are common causes of stress in our modern world? What are the consequences of stress for our health and well-being? Why are some people more vulnerable to developing stress-related illnesses than others? And perhaps most importantly – what are the most effective strategies for coping with stress?
How can we understand the appeal of psychotherapy, widely recognized as the preferred antidote to human unhappiness and misery, and what does it offer that friends, family, self-help, and psychopharmacological remedies do not?
What does psychotherapy offer our distressed selves that friends, family, self-help, and psychopharmacological remedies do not? The demand for therapy is currently at an all-time high, bolstering its century-long hegemony as the preferred antidote to human unhappiness and misery, even as it is under sustained attack from critics characterizing it as self-indulgent as well as from platforms that would replace human therapists with chatbots, analysts with algorithms.... Read more about Psychotherapy and the Modern Self (Gen Ed 1179)