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Global Perspectives

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Global Perspectives courses in the spring quarters investigate several different global phenomena, enabling you to make comparative analyses and locate your own actions within a global context. These courses are 4 units and structured with faculty-led lectures (2x/week) and fellow-led sections (2x/week). Students placed in spring quarter in August will submit course preferences before spring enrollment opens.


Preventing Human Extinction

Killer epidemics, climate change, nuclear war, hostile artificial intelligence: is human extinction inevitable? Is it necessarily bad for the planet? What might we do to prevent it? You will have the chance to explore several plausible scenarios by which human extinction could occur within the next 100 years. We’ll study the psychological, social, and epistemological barriers that frequently derail efforts to avert these catastrophes.

Paul Edwards, Science, Technology & Society

Stephen Luby, Medicine (Infectious Diseases)


Where Does It Hurt?

How can physicians best prevent or relieve pain? What is suffering? You will use case studies and live interviews to understand how individuals environments shape the experience of illnesses, including recovery and loss. You will also develop skills for reflecting upon how one’s culture and personal context influence how you may make meaning of illness and suffering.

Karl Lorenz, Medicine (Primary Care and Population Health)  

Nicole Martinez-Martin, Pediatrics (Biomedical Ethics)


Rules of War

When, if ever, is war justified? How do we determine what limits, if any, govern how wars are fought and who may be killed? Are these rules still relevant in light of the changing nature of warfare? You will actively engage with the main ethical questions raised in this course through an interactive role-playing simulation, in which you will be assigned roles as government officials, advisors, or other actors. Students will confront various ethical, legal, and strategic problems as they make decisions about military intervention and policies regarding the threat and use of force in an international crisis.

Scott Sagan, Political Science

Allan Weiner, Law



The Spirit of Democracy

What has led to the remarkable spread of democracy around the world? And why do freedom and democracy now appear to be receding in the world? How are the original debates on the design of constitutional democracy in the United States relevant to the current challenges it faces? The class is a unique opportunity to not only study democracy in the United and around the globe but also participate in a practical experiment in “deliberative polling.” You will help develop and organize a focus group and run through a simulation of the deliberative democracy process.

Larry Diamond, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies

James Fishkin, Communications


The Ethical Challenges of the Global Climate Crisis

Climate change is now a global crisis. The notion that countries can each individually deal with it and ignore the fact that it ignores borders has long been recognized as unrealistic and counterproductive. Yet the international community has time and again for more than three decades fallen far short of what the global scientific community warns is necessary to stave off catastrophe soon. Fortunately, governments and the fossil fuel industry that still holds undue influence over them are not the only entities that will determine whether humanity can survive on the only planet in the universe known so far to support life. Thanks to massive global activism, especially among youth and people on the frontlines of the climate crisis, and a revolution in ever more affordable and scalable clean energy, especially solar, wind, geothermal, electric vehicles, and battery storage, the global political climate surrounding what is “economically and technologically” possible is rapidly changing.

Mikael Wolfe, History


Living with Viruses

What is a virus? How do viruses affect our lives? Does the virus make us distinctly human? This course challenges you to think beyond conventional disciplinary distinctions through questions about the impact of biology on human behavior as well as the potential of humans to shape biology through genetic engineering. Through creative projects, students will engage the study of individual viruses in their microbial as well as cultural context.

Julie Baker, Genetics


Utopia, Dystopia, and Technology in Science Fiction

Science fiction thinks about how science and technology transform human society, values, and everyday experiences in ways good or bad. By projecting both utopia and dystopia, sf reveals and critiques technology-induced social malaises and keeps hopes alive by projecting better futures, testifying to the ceaseless human potential for self-renewal in sustaining civilization on Earth. This course asks the two-fold question: How can humans of diverse cultures harness technoscientific innovations while preserving humanist values and maintain a sustainable economy and civilization? How do narratives of utopia and dystopia depict the anthropocentric domination of nature and the exploitation working classes through the misuse and abuse of technology?

Ban Wang, East Asian Languages and Cultures