Home » Arizona Science Lecture Series 2020 -- Catalysts of Change

Arizona Science Lecture Series 2020 -- Catalysts of Change

You are invited to attend Catalysts of Change, the Arizona Science Lecture Series 2020 -- a series of four free lectures exploring both positive and negative catalysts influencing the pace of global change and how these scientific advances will profoundly impact how we live 20 years from now and beyond. Lectures will be held in Centennial Hall on Tuesdays at 7 pm starting February 4, 2020. 

Life Beyond Earth - February 4
Presenters: Chris Impey and Betül Kaçar
After four billion years of life on Earth, one species is altering the planet to make it less habitable. That same species is also poised to leave the planet and live on other worlds. As we contemplate life off-Earth we’re also making rapid progress in our search for life beyond Earth. The lecture will look at the trajectory of life on Earth, and what our planet can tell us about the likelihood of life on the many exoplanets that are being discovered. It will address the most profound questions we can ask about our place in the universe: Are we alone? The search for life beyond Earth will inform how we live on this planet. As T.S. Eliot wrote: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
 
Our Rapidly Changing Biosphere - February 18
Presenters: Brian Enquist and Rachel Gallery
What does the future hold for the biodiversity of our planet, and why should we care? Ecosystems connect the biosphere’s living and physical components through the flow of energy and the cycling of nutrients—and ecosystems sustain society. However, the biosphere is now rapidly changing. In this talk, we will travel from lowland tropical rainforests to alpine wetlands to highlight the importance of biodiversity in ecosystems. From the diversity and complexity of microscopic life in soils to the diversity of ecosystems along climate gradients, we will show why biodiversity is changing across scales and why this matters. Throughout, we emphasize the factors that promote and maintain biodiversity as well as why change in the biosphere is accelerating. Many questions remain: what is the future of the biosphere and biodiversity on an increasingly human dominated planet? And how much time do we have left to promote a sustainable earth?
 
The Promise and Peril of Artificial Intelligence - February 25
Presenters: Stephen Kobourov and Carlos Scheidegger
The word robot is 100 years old, but only recently has AI begun to make real-life impact, from Apple’s Siri to Uber’s self-driving cars. Rapid advances in machine learning have renewed the idea of modeling how the human brain works by building deep neural networks that learn how to solve problems with the help of many examples. Like other revolutions, AI comes with great promise: better medical diagnoses, more efficient transportation, and personalized recommendations from shopping to music to fitness routines. There’s also peril, since AI enables mass surveillance and manipulation, and perpetuates societal biases. There are technological challenges—deep neural networks can solve only narrow problems, are not robust, and do not generalize how we expect them to—but a truly humane, AI-enabled future will require much more than just technologists. We must work with ethicists, policy-makers, and particularly the people that will be affected by these systems.
 
Our World is Changing Faster Than We Are - March 3
Presenter: Howard-Yana Shapiro
Society faces enormous challenges to feed the future population, heal us from known and unknown diseases and find those solutions quickly. The question becomes, what scientific tools do we have that enable resilient solutions to those problems. The world of science is international; today we need collaborations yielding discovery, translation and scale to those issues. Unconventional ideas/unconventional solutions are mandated more than ever before. As we study the complexity of biological systems, strategy not tactics and determined innovation gives hope for the future.
 
Please visit the lecture series website for more information.
 
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