Techno Being 2050

What will it mean to be human in 2050? Environmentalists speculate that by then, the climate in central North Carolina may feel like Central Florida today. A better understanding of genetics could lead to cures for deadly diseases and new technologies could put sensors in our bodies to monitor vital signs and administer personalized doses of medicines.

The Human Being 2050—how advances in science will create a human experience more wonderful and more terrifying than we can imagine—will be the focus of the Fall 2006 installment of Carolina’s What’s the Big Idea? lecture series. The series is presented each March and October to share with the community new scientific research being conducted by scholars at Carolina. It brings together experts representing a wide range of disciplines to discuss an important contemporary issue.

RENCI Director Dan Reed will present one of the lectures in the series, “Techno Being 2050: Blurring the Line Between Human and Machine,” on Thursday, Oct. 12, beginning at 7 p.m. The talks will speculate on the possible technological advances of the next 40-plus years and how they might impact our lives, our work, even our definition of what it means to be human.

In 2050, will we be equipped with an array of embedded sensors to monitor all our biological processes and give us personalized doses of medications, vitamins, and performance enhancers? Will artificial intelligences manage our finances and organize an otherwise unmanageable stream of data? What will be the social and political implications of technological change that continues to happen at an exponential rate? Reed will draw on his expertise and years of experience as a technological innovator to look at where technology has taken us and the opportunities and risks it poses for future generations.

Other panelists and topics planned for the series are:

  • Stem Cells: Their History and Their Future
    Thursday, Oct. 5, with Oliver Smithies, Excellence Professor of pathology and laboratory medicine
  • The Promise and Peril of Genetic Medicine
    Thursday, Oct. 19, with Jim Evans, director of Clinical cancer genetics and the Bryson Program in Human Genetics
  • The End of Addiction?
    Thursday, Oct. 26, with Linda A. Dykstra, William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor and Dean, Graduate School.

RENCI is one of the co-sponsors of What’s the Big Idea?, along with the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development and Endeavors magazine.

All talks will be held at the William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education on Thursdays in October from 7 – 9 p.m. The series will culminate on Nov. 2 when the four program speakers will be joined by a panel of specialists on aging, literature, maternal and child health, philosophy, microbiology, immunology, and medical journalism to discuss how the human experience may change by 2050.