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OHC lectures

2019–20 Convergence: intersections between the sciences and the humanities

The Convergence lecture series will highlight key areas of human experience where science and the humanities intersect as well as areas of divergence where science and the humanities could be brought into more productive relation. Our speakers will discuss a range of topics and perspectives relating to bioethics, health and justice, climate change and human adaptation, and neuroscience and the human brain.

As scientific research opportunities expand, urgent questions concerning the impact of these discoveries on the human experience are coming to the forefront of the public debate: How is the research being done? What ethical practices and guidelines are being adopted to ensure that human rights and biological diversity are protected? Who is funding the research and why? How are the innovations being used—or misused? What are the impacts to individuals, communities, countries, and our planet? When is the right moment to pivot and change directions if these questions cannot be answered? When do we forge ahead quickly for the benefit of all?


“Beyond Buzzwords: Reimagining the Default Settings of Technology and Society”

Ruha Benjamin
2019–20 Cressman Lecturer

Ruha Benjamin, African American Studies, Princeton University; author of Race After Technology (2019).
Tuesday, February 4, 2020
7:30 p.m.
First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive St., Eugene

Benjamin will present the concept of the “New Jim Code” to explore a range of discriminatory designs that encode inequity: by explicitly amplifying racial hierarchies, by ignoring but thereby replicating social divisions, or by aiming to fix racial bias but ultimately doing quite the opposite. Benjamin will also consider how race itself is a kind of tool designed to stratify and sanctify social injustice and discuss how technology is and can be used toward liberatory ends. Benjamin will challenge us to question not only the technologies we are sold, but also the ones we manufacture ourselves.

“On Rising Together: Creative and Collective Responses to the Climate Crisis”

Elizabeth Rush
2019–20 Clark Lecturer

Elizabeth Rush, Creative Nonfiction, Brown University; author of Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore (2018)
Thursday, March 5, 2020
7:30 p.m.
First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive St., Eugene

What might we learn from the people living on climate change’s front lines about the future that we share? In her talk, Rush will speak about a small community on the eastern shore of Staten Island––a place that hurricane Sandy both undid and remade from the ground up––investigating the storm’s aftermath and the radical decisions residents made about how to overcome their shared vulnerability. She will give voice to those who have been traditionally left out of environmental discourse and how we might make the conversation more whole moving forward.

Leonard Mlodinow

Leonard Mlodinow
2019–20 Kritikos Lecturer

Leonard Mlodinow, author of Elastic: flexible thinking in a time of change (2018
Tuesday, April 21, 2020
7:30 p.m.
First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive St., Eugene
Mlodinow is a theoretical physicist and author, recognized for groundbreaking discoveries in physics and for making science accessible and interesting to the general public.


“Deep Ethics in the Age of the Algorithm”

Paul Root Wolpe
2019–20 Tzedek Lecturer

Paul Root Wolpe, Raymond F. Schinazi Distinguished Research Chair in Jewish Bioethics, and the Director of the Center for Ethics at Emory University
Thursday, May 14, 2020
7:30 p.m.
First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive St., Eugene
Wolpe will discuss deep machine learning, deep surveillance, deep facial recognition—Thomas Friedman called “deep” the word of 2019. What that word reveals is the role of complexity in our modern technological understanding of the world; complexity used to be a problem, now it is a resource. And that complexity means that often we cannot wait for an outcome before we make an ethical judgement; ethics will have to be built into the complex algorithms that will decide who will get resources, who will get arrested, and, famously, who the automated car will crash into. In an age of deep machine learning we will need a deep ethics to keep pace. It is time to ask: what will that ethics look like?




Information about OHC lectureships