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Socrates Program: 2016 Summer Seminars

Democracy in the Digital Age

This seminar, an update of the first Socrates Society seminar held 20 years ago, will explore how new information and communications technologies change the nature of democracy and its core institutions. It begins with what we mean by democracy, distinguishing among direct, representative, communitarian and pluralistic democratic models, and then looking at the key trends and drivers of the digital age. It then explores issues of liberty (e.g., issues relating to the freedom to communicate, freedom to connect, the right of privacy, and the right to be forgotten). The seminar will also explore the concept of digital inclusion, how to bring the advantages that the digital world has to offer such as education, jobs, and healthcare to the underserved. It will consider how digital technologies are likely to affect the electoral process in the future, and will finish with a look at the global impact of these technologies on democracy around the world. Are they “technologies of freedom” or oppression? How can we use these technologies to make our world a better place?

Moderator: Charlie Firestone, Executive Director Communications and Society Program

Fighting, Competing, Imagining, Leading: The Path to a Good Society

From Homer’s Iliad and Sun Tzu’s Art of War to the steady tide of combat films and first-person shooter video games, we celebrate and fret over the human inclination to conflict. In civilian occupations like sport and commerce, we call it competition, and that, too, elicits both admiration and concern. At the same time, we seek community, collaboration, inclusion, and the stability in which individuals and societies flourish. How do we combine those often-antithetical desires to build full lives and vibrant societies? This seminar sets battlefield by playing field, trading floor by hearth and home to find and define creative leadership.

Moderator: Leigh Hafrey, Senior Lecturer in the Behavioral and Policy Sciences area at MIT Sloan School of Management

Artificial Intelligence, Business, and the Future of Work

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made the front cover of Foreign Affairs, The Atlantic, Fortune, and Scientific American Mind in recent months. Popular opinions on AI have moved from skepticism, to grudging respect for the breadth and depth of tasks performed. There are now signs of alarm about the prospects for job displacement, and even the downside risks of AI’s developing an agenda of their own. This seminar will examine 3 critical questions: 1) What can AI really do today and what is hype? 2) How will AI transform business and jobs? 3) Will the widespread use of AI lead to human impoverishment or unprecedented flourishing?

Moderator: Neil Jacobstein, Co-chairs of the AI and Robotics Track at Singularity University headquartered at the NASA Research Park in Mountain View California

Who Is “Us” Now? Reimagining American Civic Identity

From the start, the American project has been to create an unum greater than the sum of its pluribus parts. That project has never been more challenging — or more full of promise. On the one hand, the market has relentlessly sliced us up into narrower demographic niches. We are fragmented. On the other hand, the burgeoning diversity of our people means that we now have an unprecedented opportunity to build a mass multicultural democratic republic — one that can last. Can it be done? That is this generation’s great question, and in this session of the Socrates Seminar, we will explore the ethical values, the cultural content, the constitutional creed, and the historical touchstones that must undergird a coherent American civic identity. Without whitewashing difference or downplaying unity, we will attempt to answer, in a capacious way, this nation’s enduring question: Who is us?

Moderated by Eric Liu, Director of Aspen Program on Citizenship and American Identity

The Great Middle East Upheaval

The Middle East faces the greatest turmoil in the century since its borders were defined by European colonial masters. The centers of political and economic power, the nature of conflict, the cast of characters, and even the map of the Middle East map are shifting dramatically. We will explore the impact of disintegrating Syria, resurgent Iran, aggressive ISIS, ambitious Saudi Arabia and the new threats to Israel.

Moderator: Robin Wright, contributing writer for New Yorker

The Aspen Institute Socrates Program invites you to join us in Aspen, Colorado, for an exciting weekend of learning and summer activities July 8-11, 2016. Choose one of five expert-moderated seminars available!

Event information
Fri Jul 8, 2016 - Mon Jul 11, 2016
6:00pm - 12:00pm GMT+0000
Aspen Meadows Campus
Aspen, CO, United States