Roundtable Discussions

Title: Making Boring Things Exciting: The Path to the Year 2000 Problem

Discussion Leader: Dr. John L. King, Professor, Department of Information & Computer Science

Room: Emerald Bay A

It's hard to imagine that something as boring as how dates are recorded in computers could be spun up as an apocalyptic vision of the end of the world. Yet, that's exactly what has happened. By all accounts, the Y2K problem is a global fixation. There has been a lot of talk about how the world got into this Y2K mess. But the most interesting story is simply THAT the world is in this mess. How do such things happen? The Y2K story does contain lessons about how not to program dates into computers, but it contains a lot more if we look at it closely. The most interesting stories beneath the surface of Y2K involve the changing relationship between technology and human welfare, and the co-evolution of social capability and technical infrastructure.

Title: Import Restrictions on US Gene Food: Unfair Trade Barriers or is Gene Food Bad and Dangerous?

Discussion Leaders: Dr. Linda R. Cohen, Professor and Chair, Department of Economics
Dr. Franz J. Hoffmann, Associate Professor, Department of Developmental & Cell Biology
Dr. Michael R. Mulligan, Associate Professor, Department of Developmental & Cell Biology

Room: Emerald Bay B

Genetically engineered food produced in the US is facing import restrictions in key markets like the European Union and Japan. Restrictions span from requirements to label gene food to import prohibition. While proponents of gene food in the US are calling these practices unfair trade barriers, foes argue that genetically engineered "Frankenstein food" is unsafe and of inferior quality. What is the truth: Is the US exercising trade imperialism by forcing the world to buy and consume dangerous produce, or are "genetically enhanced" organisms actually essential to generate the crop yields urgently needed to nourish the world's exploding population and to reduce the use of herbicides and pesticides? Is the rejection of gene food just market protection, culturally-based food sentimentalism and old-world technology fear, or a well-reasoned reaction of a more responsible people?

Title: Violence: An Obstinate Social Problem

Discussion Leader: Dr. Raymond W. Novaco, Professor, Department of Psychology & Social Behavior

Room: Emerald Bay C

War and school massacres have brought violence to the forefront of our attention. Because aggressive behavior serves important social functions, it cannot be eradicated. Most simply, whether or not violence occurs is a function of two factors: provocation and inhibition. Regulatory control on violence erodes when shared values and expectations weaken. Most typically, people are able to avoid violence as a personal probability and become desensitized to the awfulness of violence by adapting to it.