'Humans, Data and Machines' Is Theme of UA Science Series


The confluence of humans, data and machines — and the accompanying philosophical and ethical questions — will be explored during the University of Arizona College of Science's annual lecture series, which begins on Jan. 22. 

This year's six-week series, "Humans, Data and Machines," will examine the scientific, technological, legal and personal impact of revolutionary social change. The theme touches on many of the ideas found in "The Fourth Industrial Revolution," a 2016 book by German engineer and economist Klaus Schwab.

According to Schwab, the fourth revolution builds on the first three revolutions — all characterized by advances in technology — and is marked by an unprecedented technological convergence that is changing the way humans live and work.

"This year's College of Science lecture series is unlike any we have presented before," said Joaquin Ruiz, vice president for innovation and dean of the College of Science. "With the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the world is going to see technology blending the physical, digital and biological worlds. This will transform the way we live. In this series, we have lined up some of the most brilliant minds at the UA to give us a glimpse into what lies ahead." 

The UA is well-positioned to be a national leader in the revolution, UA President Robert C. Robbins said.

"We have world-class programs in human health, space sciences, optical sciences, environmental sciences and many other disciplines, and we already are using big data and technology to make life better for people in southern Arizona and far beyond," Robbins said. "In addition, our student-centric focus means that we are graduating students with competencies in critical thinking, emotional intelligence and leadership — skills that will be even more critical as we explore how this new age changes the way humans live their lives."

The free lectures, which are offered in partnership with the Office for Research, Discovery and Innovation, will be held at 7 p.m. on Mondays at Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd., on the UA campus. Parking is available for a fee in the Tyndall Avenue Garage, 880 E. Fourth St.  

Each lecture will be livestreamed by Arizona Public Media and will be available in podcast form on iTunes U, YouTube and Arizona Public Media approximately one week after the lecture date. 

Here is the six-week lineup: 

  • Jan. 22: "Problem Solving With Algorithms," Stephen Kobourov, UA professor of computer science 
  • Jan. 29: "The Minds of Machines," Mihai Surdeanu, UA associate professor of computer science 
  • Feb. 5: "Working Alongside Thinking Machines," Nirav Merchant, director, UA Data Science Institute, Data7 
  • Feb. 12: "What Humans Do That Machines Cannot," Luis von Ahn, CEO and co-founder, Duolingo; professor of computer science, Carnegie Mellon University 
  • Feb. 19: "Machine Influencers and Decision Makers," Jane Bambauer, UA professor of law, James E. Rogers College of Law 
  • Feb. 26: "There Is No Such Thing as Big Data," Vincent J. Del Casino Jr., vice president, UA Academic Initiatives and Student Success; UA professor, School of Geography and Development

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