Our Society Reimagined

Our Society Reimagined is a four-week series that provides an opportunity to explore the domestic issues that have shaped our modern society, as well as a chance to gain perspective on the underlying values and ideas that we hold as individuals and as a society, and how these tenets shape our lives.

The 2023 series will take place in person on our Aspen Meadows campus from 6:00-8:00 pm MT on four consecutive Wednesdays, October 18-November 8. Tom Morrison and Clint Kinney will return to moderate the series.

Fee: $195, includes all sessions, refreshments, and reading materials.

The 2023 series is now at capacity. If you’d like to add your name to the waitlist, please email Zoë Brown at zoe.brown@aspeninstitute.org

The 2023 topics are the following:

Wednesday, October 18
Artificial Intelligence
How will recent developments in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies impact our lives? The reactions in the media have covered all the bases, with forecasts ranging from Armageddon to Nirvana. Will AI be a force for good or evil, or both? The technology will impact many elements of our society. How will AI impact existing jobs, and will new jobs emerge to offset anticipated job losses? Can our political processes address the potential impact of expanding misinformation made possible by AI? Is it possible to regulate AI, or can we expect the market to innovate and self-correct over time? AI productivity gains will generate enormous economic benefits, but how will those benefits be distributed across society? How will knowledge contributors be recognized or protected from the reach of AI data gathering? Should we contribute to the AI datasets as a social contribution or guard our privacy by blocking AI access? As with other technologies like social media, the social impacts are often unexpected. What other impacts might we anticipate from AI? (Disclaimer: ChatGPT was not used in the creation of this description.) 

Wednesday, October 25
Climate Change
We have all just lived through the hottest summer in human history, with global weather catastrophes hitting the news daily. Will this change our individual behavior and our collective political focus, or will our dysfunctional politics and our human tendency to focus on the short-term overpower our summer experience? Numerous efforts are being employed to address climate change. Should we rely more on individual behavior change or engineered solutions? Are we too quick to accept new technologies as easy solutions without  considering unintended consequences? Unfortunately, carbon offsets have, in many cases, resulted in greenwashing. The Inflation Reduction Act has provided extensive subsidies for renewable energy, but many local governments are creating zoning barriers for renewable energy projects and taxing electric vehicles to fight these subsidies. As countries backtrack on their commitments, the limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius set by the Paris Climate Accord will likely be breached. Will climate engineering, as frightening as it is, be necessary to protect our planet? How do we find solutions that can achieve broad public support? 

Wednesday, November 1
Are We Too Woke, or Not Woke Enough?
At its best, being woke can mean an awareness of systematic social injustice and inequalities. At its worst, wokeism can be a form of intolerant, outrageous liberalism that makes important topics more difficult to discuss. As a society, how much diversity of thought should we accept? Is wokeism causing more arguments or allowing more people to be themselves? Looking forward, how do we ensure fairness in competition for trans athletes? Looking back, how do we ensure justice as we rectify past evils such as slavery? Affirmative action is no longer allowed in college admissions, and teaching complex topics such as critical race theory is being limited. As we reimagine our society, how best should we guide difficult discussions where there is so much diversity of thought? Are difficult conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion simply right versus wrong, or can discussion and its answers be nuanced? Does everyone need to agree, or is there room for diversity of thought? 

Wednesday, November 8
Why Do We Have Homelessness?
Homelessness affects individuals and families alike. Given that the necessity of shelter is at the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, why does our society tolerate homelessness? Should proper housing be considered a human right or a benefit of hard work? Perhaps in a capitalistic society, homelessness is simply a market outcome affecting those who are irresponsible and need more guidance, rules, and structure in their lives. At its core, is housing the responsibility of individuals to provide themselves or society’s duty to provide? And most importantly, are the solutions to homelessness more about charity or simply delivering justice?

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