Online | Black Mirror: Big Data and Medical Prediction

Boundary Crossing Science

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Wednesday | 19.01.22 | 19:00

First meeting |

(in Hebrew)

The Fifth Season of the Series "Talking about Science in the 21st Century"

Discussion with Prof. Ben Reis 

Moderated by Prof. Oren Harman, Bar-Ilan University; The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute

Would you want to know your medical future holds? What about the date of your death? The big data and artificial intelligence revolutions make it possible to predict people’s medical futures, including abuse and suicide attempts. Such abilities open up new possibilities but also raise many questions regarding the ethical boundaries of science. In our first meeting we will converse with one of the pioneers in the use of big data in medicine, Prof. Ben Reis, Director of the Predictive Medicine Group at Harvard Medical School.

About the series:

The metaphor of crossing a boundary has many, varied meanings: We cross a boundary when we move from country to country, but also when we dare, go to extremes, or challenge conventional wisdom. As in life, so too in science, physical boundaries, but also philosophical, psychological and normative ones, are sometimes crossed. Crossing a boundary can destabilize us, but it can also excite us and spark our imagination. Famous examples include the crossing of the boundary of the skies by Icarus and the pioneers of flight who followed; the synthesis of the first organic compound; the theory of evolution which shattered the boundary between humankind and nature; the discovery of radioactivity and quantum mechanics, both of which crossed the boundary of the senses; the use of the atomic bomb; the flight to the moon; and the development of tools for gene editing today.

In the fifth season of the series “Talking about Science in the 21st Century” we will meet a diverse group of scientists who cross boundaries in a host of ways. We will converse with a medical informaticist who crosses the time barrier by using big data to predict morbidity and epidemics, with an engineer who is developing nanochips for treating ailments of the central nervous system, with a writer and physicist who moves between the worlds of fiction and reality, with a web researcher who examines the influence of digital sovereignty over national boundaries and national heritage, and with a scientist who grows mammalian embryos outside their mothers’ wombs.

The series will conclude with the screening of the Netflix film Black Holes: The Edge of All We Know followed by discussion with its director. The film portrays the dramatic attempt by different groups of scientists to cross a boundary that is impassable by definition: to see with their own eyes that which cannot be observed.

By looking at boundary crossings in science we will try to gain a better understanding of the disruptive power of science and technology, but also of the great promise they hold—the promise of change that enables us, and sometimes even requires us, to understand ourselves in new ways.

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