Students tackle grim future scenarios in "Are We Doomed?" class

It says something about the times we're living in that there's an uber-popular course at the University of Chicago called "Are We Doomed?" Funny…and also the opposite of funny. 

The New Yorker has a great piece about this class and what it focuses on:

Are We Doomed? was made up of undergraduate and graduate students, and met for about three hours on Thursday afternoons. Each week, a guest expert gave a lecture and fielded questions about a topic related to existential risk: nuclear annihilation, climate catastrophe, biothreats, misinformation, A.I. 

See? Fun!  What sources do they look at?

The assigned materials were varied in genre, tone, and perspective. They included a 2023 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; the films "Dr. Strangelove," by Stanley Kubrick, and "wall-e," by Pixar; Ursula K. Le Guin's novel "The Dispossessed"; a publication from the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense and Max Brooks called "Germ Warfare: A Very Graphic History"; and chapters of "The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity," by the philosopher Toby Ord.

This would have been my favorite class ever. And I really get why this course would be so popular: these kids are the ones who are going to inherit a world full of existential risks and they're trying to make intellectual sense of it. How are they processing all this?

The students were so much less daunted or flattened by reflecting on the future than I was—than most people I speak with are. I wondered, Do we have less equanimity because we know or feel something that the students don't, or because we don't know or feel something that they do?

Ah, the optimism of youth. I deeply appreciated having the wisdom of age, but I really wish I could see the world with young eyes again, just to remember what that felt like.

Read on to hear more about what these brilliant kids think of their future.

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