Madison Chaos and Complex Systems Seminar

Summer 2015 Discussions

At the seminar on May 5, 2015, we decided to make our long-standing summer discussions slightly more formal by having a topic, a facilitator, and a web-accessible reading or video. The reading or video should take no more than 20 minutes, and the facilitator should be prepared to give at most a 5-minute introduction to the topic and lead the ensuing discussion. All discussions are Tuesday noon on the Memorial Union Terrace (Lakefront cafeteria in the event of bad weather). Anyone interested in facilitating a topic should contact Clint Sprott.

Short List


May 12, 2015

Topic: Do we have mental autonomy?  If so, what kind and how much?

Facilitator: Deric Bownds

Reading: Thomas Metzinger’s  Essay on Cognitive Agency

May 19, 2015

Topic: Pricing electric power

Facilitator: Jim Blair

Reading: Jim Blair's notes on the Pricing of Electric Power

May 26, 2015

Topic: Human obsolescence

Facilitator: Blaise Thompson

Reading: Humans Need Not Apply

June 2, 2015

Topic: Synthesizing life

Facilitator: Jerry Tutsch

Reading: J. Craig Venter's talk on Biology at the Speed of Light or his more technical talk on Synthetic Life

June 9, 2015

Topic: Hedonics

Facilitator: Clint Sprott

Reading: Dynamical Models of Happiness

June 16, 2015

Topic: Immortality

Facilitator: Clint Sprott

Reading: Wikipedia article on Immortality

June 23, 2015

Topic: Academic freedom

Facilitator: Anonymous

Reading: Wikipedia article on Academic Freedom

June 30, 2015

Topic: Are you living in a computer simulation?

Facilitator: Jeff Mattox

Reading: The Simulation Argument and links therein, especially the podcast interview of Nick Bostrom

July 7, 2015

Topic: Memes

Facilitator: Bernard Z. Friedlander

Reading: Excerpts from Deutsch on Memes–in Beginnings of Infinity

July 14, 2015

Topic: Large data, large ideas: Discussion & examples from weather & climate

Facilitator: John Young

Reading: John Young's Discussion Outline

July 21, 2015

Topic: Forensic science and the law

Facilitator: Jeff Mattox

Reading: Jordan Ellenberg's article on Doubt and the Double Helix

July 28, 2015

Topic: The problem with psychiatry

Facilitator: Bill Fischer

Reading: Book reviews of The Illusion of Psychiatry and The Epidemic of Mental Illness

August 4, 2015

Topic: Cognitive enhancers - should we use them?

Facilitator: Deric Bownds

Reading: Wikipedia article on Nootropics

August 11, 2015

Topic: Artificial intelligence

Facilitator: Jeff Mattox

Reading: Nick Bostrom video: What Happens When Our Computers Get Smarter Than We Are?

August 18, 2015

Topic: Scientific humility

Facilitator: Myrna Casebolt

Reading: What Have You Changed Your Mind About and Why?

August 25, 2015

Topic: Censorship

Facilitator: Anda Xiong

Reading: TED talk on Censorship in China

September 1, 2015

Topic: Necessary illusions: What can't be exactly true that we still can't help believing

Facilitator: Bill Fischer

Reading: Deric Bownds' Mind Blog