Critical Engagements Annual Theme, 2020–2021

We intend this year’s theme to be at least as broad (and ambitious) as it sounds on a first encounter. It’s a question people have been asking for a long time, even as recent developments in science and technology have brought it into sharper relief. From artificial intelligence to CRISPR, from ancient hominids mating with humans to modern monkey-human hybrids, from the mechanization of white-collar work to wondering whether robots have rights, from Siri to Alexa — what counts as human, anyway? We don’t know the answers to these questions but we know that they are as critical as they are complicated. Please join us as we engage the resources of our university and community to work on a question that matters.

Key Issues and Problems

  • Artificial intelligence, artificial consciousness
  • Robots, robot ethics, robot rights, robot definitions; the future of work in a world of robots
  • Hominids, human origins, biological anthropology
  • Medical and psychological definitions of life, death, consciousness, personhood
  • Philosophical and religious accounts of life, death, consciousness, personhood
  • Language, linguistics, linguistic anthropology
  • Rights, human rights, animal rights
  • What does it mean to be humane?

The WDIM Team

We have recruited (and are recruiting!) faculty, staff, students, and community members with a broad range of interests and expertise, in and beyond our campus. Watch this space for an updated list and links.