Society in a Time of Terrorism
The Lessons of History Show Us Where We Need to Go.

45 minutes
Speaker:  Jim Van Laak

It is difficult to listen to the news and not despair for our future.  For all of humanity’s successes, why is it so difficult to get along?  Why is it that peace and cooperation seem unreachable goals.  How can we expect to survive a world where terrorism puts innocents of all nationalities on the front line of human conflict, made all the more sinister by the power of technology.

Jim Van Laak has attacked this problem with the same focus and energy he brought to his career in space exploration.  His lively talk illustrates how humans have risen to dominance on Earth for one simple reason: our intelligence has given us the ability to adapt more quickly and at lower cost than unintelligent species.  When volcanoes erupt or droughts come, humans adapt, changing behaviors and using technology to survive and thrive.  But that priceless skill is often ignored, replaced with instinctual, thoughtless reactions rather than deliberate and measured acts.  War is the obvious example of humans working against their own survival.

Van Laak’s piercing insights illuminate the ways in which such behaviors put our future at risk.  Through economic opportunism, nationalistic pride, religious extremism, and naivety, human decisions provide the motive and the means to wreak havoc on our society. 

But it need not be so.  Van Laak turns these dark potentials into bright opportunities for our future.  He shows us how we can focus our intellect and take advantage of our special gift to overcome our animal nature.  Through his eyes and words we can see how the power of our technology, strength of a global economy and the ties of growing interdependence bind our futures together to face the challenges of the future.  He helps us develop a new understanding of the challenges, opportunities, and responsibilities that await human society in the 21st century and beyond.