The World and Its Many Challenges
The Global Challenges course sheds light on the problems ailing our planet and the consequences they have on people in different regions and on the human race as a whole. It made me think about a range of issues such as liberty, human rights, women’s rights, nuclear energy, cyber technology and taxation. Seldom are these issues discussed beyond their applicability or relevance in the context of development. However, such issues require in depth study to ensure that they are employed to indeed create a just world. The talks by the subject experts in Global Challenges were the spark that kindled my thoughts and broadened my perspective. The course has been that important first step — the introduction to contentious issues – that has laid the foundation for the development of my own thoughts and opinions on several important issues, which is what will define me in the years to come.
A particular talk that stands out in memory was by Mr. Mitch Orenstein, the S. Richard Hirsch Associate Professor of European Studies at Johns Hopkins University, on the Ukraine – Russia relations. It was just a few days after this talk that Russia waged war on Ukraine. Naturally, we followed the war closely through the duration of the course. Over the semester we argued over the ideals of Putin and the responses of the West prior to and after the start of the war. Towards the end of the semester, we had a heated debate over India’s position in the war and were exposed to passionate arguments relating to the hypocrisy of the West, to the irrationality of Putin and his actions and to the future trajectory of territorial disputes. I can say with confidence that I have a far deeper understanding now of the war than I would have had, had I only followed it in the news.
Another lecture that I now recall was by Mr. Juan Enriques, the author of Right/Wrong: How Technology Changes Ethics, on the effects of technology on the societal ethics. While we did cover the doubts and hopes related to technological advancements, we also pondered over the possibility of artificial intelligence launching a war against humanity. The discussions extended as far as to consider the possibilities of creating and incubating foetuses in the lab, thus relieving women of the pains of bearing and being delivered of babies.
Global Challenges is no ordinary introduction to the issues of the world. It is a look at the issues through different prisms. Both in the choice of issues and in their analysis, it transgresses disciplinary boundaries. It is foundational in that it gets us not merely to think about the several issues that plague us, but also to look at them from uncommon perspectives, thus training us to take critical look at the world around us.