This is OLLI’s Invited Speakers Series, and this term our curiosity will take us from (winds on) Earth to (what’s happening on) Mars, from death to (how Bitcoin technology helps avoid) taxes. Since every lecture is on a different topic, even if your schedule makes you miss a lecture or two you won’t lose class continuity; that flexibility and the quality of the speakers who are willing to give us an afternoon of their time makes this one of OLLI’s more popular courses. Check with firstname.lastname@example.org for the latest program updates but here is the winter term program at the catalog press deadline.
There is no more universal truth in life than death. No matter who you are, it is certain that one day you will die, but the mechanics and understanding of that experience differs greatly in today’s modern age. Dr. Haider Warraich, a Fellow in cardiology at Duke, is the author of the critically acclaimed book Modern Death: How Medicine Is Changing the End of Life, and he will be telling us more about how we die today, from the cellular level up to the very definition of death itself.
We are harvesting the wind! Professor William H. Schlesinger, dean emeritus and biogeochemist of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, will be telling us about the nature of wind power, its promise, and its challenges. There is vastly more wind energy available in the United States than most realize, and the potential wind-based mills along the Atlantic Coast can supply all the electricity from Virginia to Maine with windmills located in shallow waters. We will learn about the risks and benefits, and the opportunities and threats, of wind energy today.
Keith Payne is a professor of psychology and neuroscience at UNC–Chapel Hill, and his lab asks questions such as, Why do people make more self-defeating decisions when inequality is high? And why does feeling poor sometimes have more powerful effects than actually being poor? He has written about some of his research in The Broken Ladder, and will share more about how the disparity between rich and poor has ramifications that extend far beyond mere financial means.
“The key to bringing people who use drugs, engage in sex work or have histories of incarceration closer to disease prevention, health services, and reduced recidivism is to treat every person, regardless of their circumstance or condition, with dignity and respect.” That is part of the mission statement of the North Carolina Harm Reduction Center, and Loften Wilson, who describes himself as “Southern, queer, and transmasculine” is the Center’s harm reduction specialist for our area. He will talk about needle-exchange programs, health care advocacy, and the other efforts the Harm Reduction Center makes. He is in touch with some of the dark places here, and he will be taking us on a virtual tour of them.
In the old days, when making a movie, a director knew that when a camera was rolling, it exposed $3 of film every second. Digital technology has changed that and other not-so-obvious ways that films are made. Film director Neill Fleeman will talk about how technology is changing his industry, and he will bring some of his film clips to show us examples.
Money, or at least using its physical tokens like cash, is falling out of favor more quickly around the world than here. OLLI member Brent Moss will tell us about that, but his emphasis is going to be on Bitcoin and, more important, on blockchain, a very secure digital ledger that has much wider applications—such as keeping health records available and secure. “In Cryptology We Trust” is becoming a reality in our world.
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Duke’s Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics, is a man of varied interests who has introduced us to many fascinating ethical questions. This term, we will learn about his current research interest: teaching morality to artificial intelligence systems. On a treacherous road, what should a computer-controlled car do if a child runs in front of it—hit the child or drive over the cliff beside the road? What should IBM’s Watson disclose if the information is of only marginal use to the research question but could be harmful to someone?
How did the 1 percent, with most of the world’s wealth, get that way? Doug Longman, an OLLI instructor who is one of the facilitators in OLLI’s popular “The World Today” series, is going to bring his expertise in economics to “Symposia.” We will learn about the Marx economic theory and then move on to talk about the research and suggestions in Picketty’s Capital in the 21st century. We’ve heard it said that economics is the dismal science: this lecture is going to refute that.
Statues and monuments are part of our environment and culture, but what about when they celebrate and memorialize the wrong values by today’s standards? Should we honor those who fought and died for a very specific state’s right—the right to own slaves? Professor Brent Aucoin, a professor of history and an associate dean of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Society, will be addressing this timely topic.
Tony Rice, our area’s NASA spokesman, talked with us last term about how NASA uses robotics to explore the solar system. This term, he will focus on Mars: what’s been done, what is going on now, and what the future holds. He will brief us on how likely it is we or our children will hear something similar to what some of us heard in 1969—“One small step for man . .”—as the first bootprint is made in the red planet’s dust. Will it even be spoken in English?