March 09, 2016
As technology rapidly progresses, some proponents of artificial intelligence believe that it will help solve complex social challenges and offer immortality via virtual humans. But AI’s critics say that we should proceed with caution. That its rewards may be overpromised, and that the pursuit of superintelligence and autonomous machines may result in unintended consequences. Is this the stuff of science fiction? Should we fear AI, or will these fears prevent the next technological revolution?
February 03, 2016
What if we didn’t have to grow old and die? The average American can expect to live for 78.8 years, an improvement over the days before clean water and vaccines, when life expectancy was closer to 50, but still not long enough for most of us. So researchers around the world have been working on arresting the process of aging through biotechnology and finding cures to diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer. What are the ethical and social consequences of radically increasing lifespans? Should we accept a “natural” end, or should we find a cure to aging?
November 02, 2015
If you could take a pill that would help you study and get better grades, would you? Off-label use of “smart drugs” – pharmaceuticals meant to treat disorders like ADHD, narcolepsy, and Alzheimer’s – are becoming increasingly popular among college students hoping to get ahead, by helping them to stay focused and alert for longer periods of time. But is this cheating? Should their use as cognitive enhancers be approved by the FDA, the medical community, and society at large? Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
April 15, 2015
A recent Gallup poll found that Americans are still largely supportive of the death penalty, with 6 in 10 in favor as punishment for murder. Legal in 32 states, it has come under renewed scrutiny in light of several botched executions in 2014. At the heart of the debate are many complicated questions. Within a flawed criminal justice system, is it possible to know every person’s guilt with a sufficient degree of certainty? Does the fear of death reduce crime? Are there race and class biases in sentencing? Are some crimes so heinous in nature that punishment by death is the only appropriate measure, or is capital punishment always immoral? Should we abolish the death penalty?
November 13, 2014
In 1994, Oregon voters passed the Death with Dignity Act, which legalized physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill. Since then, it has become legal in 4 more states, including New Mexico, where the state court ruling that it is constitutional is under appeal. Is it, in the words of the American Medical Association’s code of ethics, “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer”? Will these laws lead to a slippery slope, where the vulnerable are pressured to choose death and human life is devalued? Or do we need to recognize everyone’s basic right to autonomy, the right to end pain and suffering, and the right to choose to die with dignity?
December 04, 2013
According to a 2009 poll, around 1% of American adults reported eating no animal products. In 2011 that number rose to 2.5%--more than double, but still dwarfed by the 48% who reported eating meat, fish or poultry at all of their meals. In this country, most of us are blessed with an abundance of food and food choices. So taking into account our health, the environment and ethical concerns, which diet is best? Are we or aren't we meant to be carnivores?
October 30, 2013
If we value a free market in goods and free movement of capital, should we embrace the free movement of labor? Reciprocal treaties would allow citizens of the U.S. and other countries to work legally across borders. Would the elimination of barriers in the labor market depress wages and flood the marketplace with workers? Or would the benefits of a flexible labor supply be a boon to our economy, all while raising the standard of living for anyone willing to work?
February 13, 2013
Imagine a world free of genetic diseases, where parents control their offspring’s height, eye color and intelligence. The science may be closer than you think. Genes interact in ways that we don’t fully understand and there could be unintended consequences, new diseases that result from our tinkering. But even if the science could be perfected, is it morally wrong? Would it lead to eugenics and a stratified society where only the rich enjoy the benefits of genetic enhancement? Or would the real injustice be depriving our children of every scientifically possible opportunity?
October 10, 2012
PRESENTED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH CHICAGO IDEAS WEEKJust because we can extend life, should we? The U.S. is expected to spend $2.8 trillion on health care in 2012. Medicare alone will cost taxpayers $590 billion, with over 25% going toward patients in their last year of life. If health care is a scarce resource, limited by its availability and our ability to pay for it, should government step in to ration care, deciding whose life is worth saving? In other words, how much is an extra month of life worth?
April 21, 2009
Debate description coming soon.
January 15, 2008
Debate description coming soon.