‘What Sci-Fi Writers Know about the Future’ is topic of next URI Honors Colloquium lecture, Sept. 27

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KINGSTON, R.I. – September 19, 2011- Award-winning science fiction author Vernor Vinge is the next speaker in the University of Rhode Island’s 2011 Honor’s Colloquium lecture series, which examines the question “Are you ready for the future?”

He will speak about how the fictional sci-fi inventions of his novels may someday become a reality. This Sept. 27 discussion will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Edwards Auditorium on the URI Kingston Campus. All colloquium lectures are free and open to the public.

Among the fictional inventions Vinge will discuss are instant travel, instant education, and longevity. He hopes to help the audience see these “figments of the imagination” as realities for our future. He’ll also talk about the possible creation of superhuman intelligence and the ethical issues surrounding it.

According to Vinge, in the next couple of decades “we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will have ended.” He believes that people should be aware of the way these advancements could affect the human race as we know it.

Vinge is also a professor emeritus in the Department of Computer Science at San Diego State University. His novels A Fire Upon the Deep (1992), A Deepness in the Sky (1999), Rainbows End (2006), as well as the essay The Coming Technological Singularity are all Hugo Award winners.

The rest of the speakers in the lecture series are: Anthony Atala, director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, on making new organs (Oct. 4); bioengineer Jim Collins on synthetic biology (Oct. 11); URI Professor Jason Dwyer on trends in nanotechnology (Oct. 18); URI Professor Chris Roman, hurricane researcher Joseph Cione, and Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute chief technologist James Bellingham on robotics use in the atmosphere and ocean (Oct. 25); biological engineer and brain and cognitive scientist Ed Boyden on enhancing the brain — past, present and future (Nov. 1); cognitive scientist Deb Roy and media researcher Johanna Blakley in a panel on social media (Nov. 8); cybersecurity expert Richard Clarke on cyberwarfare (Nov. 15); and Laurie Zoloth, director of the Center for Bioethics, Science and Society, on ethics and genetics (Nov. 29).

All of the lectures will be streamed live at www.uri.edu/hc, where the complete schedule of events is also listed. For additional information about the URI Honors Colloquium, contact Deborah Gardiner at debg@uri.edu or 401-874-2382.

Major sponsors of the Honors Colloquium are the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation, the URI Honors Program, and the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, with sustaining sponsors including The Mark and Donna Ross Honors Colloquium Humanities Endowment and the URI Office of the Provost and Office of the President. Additional support is provided by URI’s Harrington School of Communication and Media, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Engineering, Classroom Media Services, College of the Environment and Life Sciences, College of Human Science and Services, College of Business Administration, College of Pharmacy, Office of the Vice President for Administration and Finance, University College, Coastal Institute, Division of University Advancement, College of Nursing and Department of Communication Studies.