Humanity’s greatest challenge focus of CPP discussion Oct. 27

Michael Bess, author of the new book Planet in Peril: Humanity’s Four Greatest Challenges and How We Can Overcome Them, will be the guest speaker Oct. 27 at Ripon College.

His presentation will begin at 6:30 p.m. in Kresge Little Theatre, East Hall, on the Ripon College campus. The talk is free and open to the public and is co-sponsored by the Center for Politics and the People, the Department of History, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the Environmental Studies program.

Bess is a specialist in 20th- and 21st-century Europe, with a particular interest in the interactions between social and cultural processes and technological change. His fifth and most recent book focuses on the existential risks posed by climate change, nuclear weapons, pandemics (natural or bioengineered) and artificial intelligence, surveying the solutions that have been tried, and why they have fallen short thus far.

He describes a pathway for gradually modifying the United Nations over the coming century so that it becomes more effective at coordinating global solutions. The book explores how to get past ideological polarization and global political fragmentation, drawing lessons from the experience of the environmental movement and of the European unification movement.

Bess has been teaching at Vanderbilt University since 1989. He is the Chancellor’s Professor of History and Professor of Communication of Science and Technology.

He is an award-winning historian of science and technology. Planet in Peril: Humanity’s Four Greatest Challenges and How We Can Overcome Them is published by Cambridge University Press. His previous books are Our Grandchildren Redesigned: Life in the Bioengineered Society of the Near Future; Choices Under Fire: Moral Dimensions of World War II; The Light-Green Society: Ecology and Technological Modernity in France, 1960-2000, which won the George Perkins Marsh prize (2004) of the American Society for Environmental History; and Realism, Utopia, and Mushroom Cloud: Four Activist Intellectuals and Their Strategies for Peace, 1945-1989.

Bess is co-editor of Posthumanism: The Future of Homo Sapiens, a volume of scholarly essays on bioenhancement technologies and their social and ethical implications.

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