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Horizons is a series of lectures and panel discussions at the Cambridge Public Library on breakthroughs in Science and Technology and their impact on Society.

We invite leading thinkers from our local world-class universities and industry to discuss important ethical, cultural and economic implications of their work, in a way that is accessible for non-specialists.

Whenever possible, we will live-stream Horizons talks and post the archived video footage here.

Horizons #9 The Curious Person's Guide to Earth Repair: Regenerating Soil and Water Landscapes


Over the past year, the public has grown increasingly aware of the ways we have inadvertently harmed the biodiversity and ecosystems upon which life depends. The United Nations having declared 2021-2030 the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration presents the opportunity for a global focus on regenerating natural systems. 

Journalist/author Judith D. Schwartz has traveled widely to find people who are successfully restoring healthy soil and water ecosystems. She will talk with Nicola Williams about her books Cows Save the Planet and Water in Plain Sight, and a forthcoming book about the global ecosystem restoration movement.  

Thursday, December 12, 2019 6:30-8:00pm [Register now!]
Lecture Hall, Main Library

Horizons #8 The Human Genomic Revolution: Past, Present, and Future


Over 15 years ago, the scientific community celebrated the sequencing of the first human genome. It’s time to ask how this monumental effort has transformed biomedical science, from basic research to the understanding and treatment of disease. Eric Lander, Broad Institute president and founding director and one of the principal leaders of the Human Genome Project, will survey the impact — what we’ve learned, and what lies ahead.

Monday, November 18, 2019 6:30pm - 8:00pm [ More Details]
Lecture Hall, Main Library 

Horizons #8 The Human Genomic Revolution: Past, Present, and Future from Cambridge Community Television on Vimeo.


Horizons #7: Our Path Forward with Ruha Benjamin, author of Race After Technology


In Race After Technology, Princeton Professor Ruha Benjamin cuts through tech-industry hype to understand how emerging technologies, from everyday apps to complex algorithms, can reinforce white supremacy and deepen social inequity. Benjamin argues that automation has the potential to hide, speed up, and deepen discrimination while appearing neutral and even benevolent when compared to the racism of a previous era. Presenting the concept of the “New Jim Code,” she shows how a range of discriminatory designs encode inequity by explicitly amplifying racial hierarchies; by ignoring but thereby replicating social divisions; or by aiming to fix racial bias but ultimately doing quite the opposite.

Thursday, September 26, 2019 6:30pm - 8:00pm [ More Details]
Lecture Hall, Main Library

Horizons #6: Storage ⁠— the Key to Making Renewable Energy Work


Renewable energy generation is now often cheaper than fossil fuels. The problem? It often can't be deployed when and where it is needed. The ability to store energy at scale could have a dramatic effect on increased renewables penetration and on global grid stability and resiliency. Malta, a graduate of Alphabet's Moonshot Factory (formerly Google X), is based in Kendall Square and is developing a solution that can store large amounts of energy for long durations. CEO Ramya Swaminathan will talk about Malta's system and other types of energy storage, how storage could transform the energy industry as we know it today, and what needs to happen at federal, state, and local levels to ensure its speedy adoption.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019 6:30pm - 8:00pm [ More Details]
Lecture Hall, Main Library

Horizons: Storage ⁠— the Key to Making Renewable Energy Work from Cambridge Community Television on Vimeo.


Horizons #5: The Era of Personal DNA Technology is Here: What are the Implications?


From diagnosing disease to modifying crops to solving crimes, DNA technology keeps transforming our world. Thanks to inexpensive portable devices, for the first time in history anyone can experiment with DNA at home, in school classrooms, and almost anywhere. We will discuss how this personal DNA revolution is empowering everyone to unlock the secrets encoded in DNA, and at the end of the discussion you will have an opportunity to get hands on with DNA technologies too.

Lecture by Katy Martin. Hand's on demo lead by Ezequiel (Zeke) Alvarez-Saavedra, both of MiniPCR.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019 6:30pm - 8:00pm [ More Details]
Lecture Hall & Community Room, Main Library

Horizons: The Era of Personal DNA Technology from Cambridge Community Television on Vimeo.


Horizons #4: Speech Police: The Global Struggle to Govern the Internet


The internet was designed to be a kind of free-speech paradise, but a lot of the material on it turned out to incite violence, spread untruth, and promote hate. What should be done about this enormous problem?

UN Special Rapporteur on Free Expression David Kaye will discuss this and other issues raised in his new book Speech Police: The Global Struggle to Govern the Internet.

Monday, May 20, 2019 7:00pm - 8:30pm [ More details ]
Lecture Hall, Main Library


Speech Police: The Global Struggle to Govern the Internet from Cambridge Community Television on Vimeo.


Horizons #3: DNA Testing and the Pursuit of an American Identity


As interest in DNA testing has soared questions have followed. What is the relationship between biology and ethnic and racial identity? How do different ethnic groups respond to stories of multiple origins? And what larger societal issues may emerge for a multicultural, multiracial country such as the United States? Join us for a lively discussion of these developing issues. Dr. Jennifer Hochschild is the Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government at Harvard University, Professor of African and African American Studies, Harvard College Professor, and the Chair of the Department of Government. She is also the director of The Project on Genomics, Politics, and Policy at Harvard University. Her many books, published by Oxford, Princeton, Harvard, and Yale University presses, examine themes of race and immigration in the larger context of public policy.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019 7:00pm - 8:30pm
Lecture Hall, Main Library

DNA Testing and the Pursuit of an American Identity from Cambridge Community Television on Vimeo.

Horizons #2: Is AI Laughing At Us?


A spirited and accessible discussion of artificial intelligence and art, how humor and creativity interrelate, and the successes and the shortcomings of new AI technologies, featuring poet and lawyer Jessica Fjeld, Google AI Engineering Director Jon Orwant and metaLAB research assistant (and incoming Harvard student) Nikhil Dharmaraj, inspired by Cambridge Public Library’s recent exhibition, The Laughing Room, in which visitors found themselves on a sitcom set where the laughter was controlled by an AI. Cosponsored by metaLAB (at) Harvard and the ARTificial Intelligence group at MIT.

Monday, February 4, 2019 6:30pm - 8:00pm
Lecture Hall, Main Library

Is AI Laughing at Us? from Cambridge Community Television on Vimeo.

Horizons #1: The Global Movement to End Nuclear Weapons and Protect Planetary Health


Professor Tilman Ruff, University of Melbourne, keynote

Panel: David Wright, Union of Concerned Scientists; Jonathan King, Peace Action; Kea Van der Ziel, Physicians for Social Responsibility; Aron Bernstein, Nuclear Weapons Education Project

Join us at the Cambridge Public Library for a stimulating presentation from Australian physician Tilman Ruff, founding chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, and co-President of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War on the exciting global movement in support of the new United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

A distinguished local panel will discuss actions being taken in the United States to lead our national conversation back to arms control and a discussion of what it will take to abolish nuclear weapons once and for all.

Dr. Ruff will be bringing with him a replica of the Nobel Peace Prize medal, which will be available for photographs after the event.

Sponsored by the Cambridge Public Library, Massachusetts Peace Action, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility

Monday, October 29, 2018 6:30pm - 9:00pm
Lecture Hall, Main Library

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