April 26, 2018

Purdue’s 150th set for ‘Giant Leaps’ with Ideas Festival topics

Giant leaps

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University’s 150th anniversary theme will be “Giant Leaps,” inspired by Neil Armstrong’s historic statement on the moon, and the centerpiece of the celebration will be a yearlong Ideas Festival, focused on four topics of discussion as Boilermakers everywhere reflect on the past, embrace the present and look to the future.

Kicking off during Homecoming 2018, Purdue will spend a year taking on some of the most pressing challenges and opportunities the world faces. The year will also be an opportunity to look back on a century and a half of serving as one of the nation’s leading land-grant universities.

“The Giant Leaps theme speaks both to Purdue’s contributions of research and action to the expansion of human understanding, and to the countless leaps our graduates have made to successful individual careers and lives,” Purdue President Mitch Daniels said.

The four topics, which provide an opportunity for cross-disciplinary input and debate, will begin in fall 2018 and drive a yearlong conversation during Purdue’s sesquicentennial celebration. Topics include:

* Giant Leaps in Space - Earth, Exploration and Economics. The future of life on Earth and the challenges of expanding into space holds high economic, social and scientific rewards if we assuage the risk and meet the technological challenges. Can we reach beyond our solar neighborhood? Is a self-sustaining space economy emerging to support this frontier? Can the geopolitical regulations for safety and access be built on the Outer Space Treaty?

* Giant Leaps in AI, Algorithms and Automation - Balancing Humanity and Technology. Innovations in digitization, machine learning, robotics and artificial intelligence are profoundly reshaping every aspect of life. While these advances hold tremendous promise to help tackle critical issues such as poverty and disease, they are also likely to introduce new concerns such as automation of jobs, cyberwarfare and tyrannical social engineering. Will we control tomorrow’s machines, or will they control us? Finding the right balance between humanity and technology will be critical.

* Giant Leaps in Health, Longevity and Quality of Life. Could a child alive today live to 150? Recent advances in genomics and technologies have ushered in a new era of biomedical research to assess, detect, prevent and treat diseases while optimizing the quality of life over the life course. Discussions around this topic will examine evidence-based methods to prevent and cure disease and optimize quality of life. Scientific frontiers to enable longer and higher-quality human life — including genomic medicine and neurogenesis in later life as well as behavior change, robotics and community development — will be addressed.

* Giant Leaps to a Sustainable World - Innovate Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow. In the last 200 years, our population has grown from 1 billion to 7.6 billion and is projected to be nearly 10 billion by 2050. We will need to adapt to meet the rising demand for food, water and energy. At the same time, rapid, exponential advances in science and technology continue to revolutionize how we live, think and work. Can technology, innovation and the marketplace converge to continue to generate economic growth areas in the global economy? Can humankind create a future in which the demands for food, energy, clean water, climate change adaptation and mitigation, biodiversity, and poverty reduction are reconciled?

The Ideas Festival is being co-chaired by Christine Ladisch, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, and Mark Lundstrom, the Don and Carol Scifres Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Topics for the year — which were guided by proposals and suggestions from faculty, students, staff, alumni and community members — will include thought-provoking discussions, debates, panels and workshops that will bring leading thinkers and doers to the university. There will also be hands-on events designed to energize and engage students and the public.

All Purdue colleges and units are encouraged to schedule and conduct their own events related to these topics. Throughout the year, the events and dialogue will be archived and curated to facilitate a comprehensive agenda-setting session to wrap up the year and chart a course for the future.

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