InterPlanetary Panels

The Interplanetary Panel Discussions feature the minds of those focusing on the ideas behind the InterPlanetary Project. We draw these minds from all meridians of the globe – representing a cross-section of creative thinkers and makers including complexity scientists, filmmakers, musicians, writers, economists, artists, astronauts, professionals, gamers, activists, earthling, aliens. What exactly will it take to truly become a Planetologist? Each panel will consider the critical Life Support Systems that ensure continued existence.

June 7th, 2018. 12:50 pm on the Main Stage


Biophysicist Shawn Douglas and designer Chaim Gingold discuss their inspirations and strategies for building computational tools that introduce new ways to play and think. Recently, they have been collaborating on Gelbox, a simulation and visualization tool for teaching Gel Electrophoresis—a notoriously hard to learn yet foundational tool in biology. This project grew directly out Shawn’s earlier work in making computational tools to transform laboratory practices (e.g. Cadnano, a CAD tool for DNA nanostructures), and Chaim’s work in designing interactive simulations and games (e.g. Earth: A Primer, a science book you play with).

June 7th, 2018. 2:30 pm on the Main Stage

What’s the minimal requirement for a self-sustaining ecosystem? Ecosystems crash all the time, closed ones included, what does a fully closed, man-made, functional ecosystem look like? What processes lead to living planets? What’s required for stable ecosystems and long-term stability? Are we capable of building an autonomous ecosystem? Are there general signs of the impact of intelligent species on ecosystems? What leads to stable planetary habitability? Can a non-living planet be turned into a living one? How can a living planet be turned into a non-living planet?

Featuring Jen Dunne, Kate Greene, David Stout and Mark Nelson.

June 7th, 2018. 3:15 pm on the Main Stage

What is the best operating system to run a planet? Who governs? Who owns? Who rewards and punishes? How can we evolve law and regulation to reflect the larger systems within which we live? What can the regulation of terrestrial ecosystems teach us about our opportunities and limitations as a species in stewarding each other and the earth? In stewarding other planets? Can we learn/teach fundamentally new social norms? What are the rights of non-human species and ecosystems? How many rules do we really need? What are you optimizing when you think about laws? Our own behavior? Maximum benefit to the society? Minimize extreme events? Creating long term stability and order? How can we universalize legal benefits linguistically or symbolically? What responsibilities and rights exist with regard to our interactions with planetary systems? What does policy and regulation that reflects relationship rather than ownership even look like?

Featuring  Linda Sheehan, Constance Steinkuehler, and Jeff Ubois.

June 7th, 2018. 5:10 pm on the Main Stage.

What is the nature of time? Is time real? Is time an invention? Can we control time? Is the universe aging? Will it die? Could we live forever organically? In simulation? How could/will the Singularity affect human time? Is consciousness infinite? What’s the half-life of a civilization? What’s the half life of planet? How can we cope with Einstein’s law, now that society has managed to become near light-speed? How do you deal with the fact that your daughter might actually be the age of your grandmother? How will our conception of time be changed after years in a tube, in darkness? What is human? How do we decide when we become people? How can we tell when an organism makes things? Thinks about things? Becomes things? How do cultures change? How quickly? Why?

Featuring Stefani Crabtree, Martine Rothblatt, and Van Savage.

June 7th, 2018. 5:55 pm on the Main Stage

How do we get there? How do we get there without using the earth as our fuel? What is the ideal fuel source? Will InterPlanetary travel require fundamentally new motion and energy technologies? Is nuclear tech a realistic solution? Why? Should space crafts be autonomous vehicles? Will space cities be planetary establishments or will we live our lives in the confines of a space ship?Where is the interplanetary dump? Dyson spheres? How can we mitigate energy increases with our growing population?

Featuring Neal Stephenson, Brendan Tracey, and Pete Worden.

At the Royal Society in London on July 20, 2015, Yuri Milner, Stephen Hawking and Lord Martin Rees announced a set of initiatives — a scientific programme aimed at finding evidence of technological life beyond Earth entitled ‘Breakthrough Listen. In addition, atop the One World Trade Center in New York on April 20, 2016, Breakthrough Starshot was announced, an interstellar programme to Alpha Centauri. These are the first of several privately-funded global initiatives to answer the fundamental science questions surrounding the origin, extent and nature of life in the universe. The Breakthrough Initiatives are managed by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation.

June 8th, 2018. 11 am on the Main Stage

How different will our day to day be on another planet? Will it be on another planet or in a spaceship? What will we endure physically to live in space? Who says it will be any different than life on earth? Where can we live? What will we eat? Will it be comfortable or uncomfortable? What will the family unit look like in space? Will technology allow for easy communication? Will distance make communication difficult? What is the optimum number of humans for a colony? What architecture would provide optimal city performance? What’s the smallest functional human society in space? Pets? What becomes most important to bring along?

Featuring Haym Benaroya, Ashton Eaton, Brian Ferguson, and Nina Lanza.

June 8th, 2018. 12:45 pm on the Main Stage.

What are the generic signs of life in the universe? Might they differ from the signs of life on earth? How so? What signals to living planets produce? Can we recognize them? What signals would past life have left? How hard is it for life to originate? How does life transform planets? Where are we most likely to find life? How different could life be? Is life necessarily organic? Do we agree on the definitions of life? How do you define life? What can we learn from inhospitable biomes and the creatures or extremophiles that live within them?

Featuring Chris Kempes and Caleb Scharf.

June 8th, 2018. 1:30 pm on the Main Stage

What is intelligence? If we as humans consider ourselves to be the pinnacle of intelligence, at least in terms of tangible accomplishments as a species, do we expect to find this same level and occurence of intelligence mirrored in any extraterrestrial life we come across? Do we expect that intelligent life to be organic, or artificial? If we find life on other planets, do we expect it to be intelligent?

Featuring Vanessa Ferdinand, David Krakauer, Jonah Nolan, Graham Spencer, and Kurt Squire.

June 8th, 2018. 3:30 pm on the Main Stage

Image: Baer Tierkel via flickr

All life on earth is social life, what are its limits? Are our social institutional systems the best there are? Could you have one planet that was one nation? How can we optimize equality, efficiency as a function of system architecture and size? Are terrestrial institutions the best that the universe has to offer? Do we expect aliens to have discovered capitalism or Marxism?Are there alternatives to money? What is the family unit like (if there is a family unit) in space? What social system would be the most effective colonizing strategy for other planets?

Featuring D.A. Wallach,  Cory Doctorow, Robert GehorsamJessica Flack

June 8th, 2018. 4:15 pm on the Main Stage

Is art the best means to communicate with others? Is art the most effective means of communication in general? Visually? Musically? Linguistically? Should we send an artist into space? Should we bring art with us at the risk of precious and expensive payload? Should they have brought a poet? Was Jodie Foster right? Do other species make art? If we encounter another species without art, should we be worried? Is art belonging only to intelligent species? What do the history of themes in art reveal about humans? Imagination and counterfactual realities in mind, how has the artistic representation of space forged our ideas about space? When we imagine space, are we remembering artistic representations we’ve encountered before?

Featuring Scott Ross,  Sasha Samochina, and Seamus Blackley

June 8th, 2018. 5:45 pm on the Main Stage

Do we have the intelligence, socially and technologically to save the earth? Is it too late? Do climate scientists have to become climate engineers? Do we have to radically change the way we live and consume to allow for continued life on earth, or will technology save us? Is talking about interplanetary travel irresponsible? Is not talking about interplanetary travel irresponsible? How can we change the incentives to live sustainably on earth? Human long term thinking is a newer and newer thing, what would change as humans think of humanity in terms of a 10,000 year plan? How will knowledge of climate and atmosphere on Mars help us understand the atmosphere of earth? What can we learn about inhospitable planets from inhospitable biomes? To survive a trip to Mars, you’d have to be super sustainable, so why are we sustainable tourists but bad locals? Does our treatment of the earth now indicate our readiness to leave it?

Featuring Annalee Newitz, Lauren Oliver, and Armin Ellis