With introductory remarks from Alex Halliday, Director of Columbia's Earth Institute, this seminar features Martin Rees, an astrophysicist and cosmologist, and the UK's Astronomer Royal.
Our Earth has existed for 45 million centuries but this is the first when one species - ours - has the entire planet's future in its hands. Advances in biotechnology, cybertechnology, robotics, and artificial intelligence--if pursued and applied wisely--could empower us to boost the developing and developed world and overcome the threats humanity faces. But we must avoid dystopian risks. These are of two kinds: those stemming from our ever-heavier collective 'footprint' on the Earth, and those enabled by technologies so powerful that even small groups, by error or design, can create a catastrophe that cascades globally. At the same time, further advances in space science will allow humans to explore the solar system and beyond with robots and AI. But there is no "Planet B" if we do not care for our home planet.
Martin Rees is based at Cambridge University where he is a Fellow (and Former Master) of Trinity College. He has been appointed to the UK's House of Lords, and he was President of the Royal Society for the period 2005-10.
He is a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy, the Japan Academy and several other foreign academies. His awards include the Balzan Prize, the Bower Award for Science of the Franklin Institute, the Gruber Prize, the Crafoord Prize and the Templeton Prize.
In addition to his research publications, he has written extensively for a general readership. He has been increasingly concerned about long-term global issues -- the pressures that a growing and more demanding population are placing on environment, sustainability and biodiversity; and the impact of powerful new technologies. His ten books include 'Before the beginning', 'Just Six Numbers', 'Our Cosmic Habitat', and 'Our Final Century' -- and the newly-published, 'On the Future: Prospects for Humanity', which will be the theme of his lecture.