Book Selected for the 2019-2020 Rensselaer Community Read

August 28, 2019

Book Selected for the 2019-2020 Rensselaer Community Read

Common reading experience to explore technology’s impact on the human species

Humans 3.0: The Upgrading of the Species by Peter Nowak has been selected as the 2019-2020 “Community Read” at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The book, chosen by a committee of representatives from the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) and Student Life, explores how innovation and technology have impacted society and the human species.  

Established in 2015, Community Read serves as a common intellectual experience for all incoming Rensselaer students and epitomizes The New Polytechnic, the Rensselaer model for education and research, as students, faculty, and staff come together to engage in discussions surrounding issues of global concern.

Beginning this fall, Community Read will be part of the reinvigorated Rensselaer core curriculum. Some HASS Inquiry courses, which expose students to a variety of current and urgent global issues, will incorporate the book. The book will also be used for programming across campus, including events and discussions taking place in Rensselaer residence halls.

Each year, the theme of the President’s Colloquy, a panel discussion that takes place on the eve of Commencement with the honorary degree recipients, becomes the theme of exploration for Rensselaer for the coming academic year. This year’s Community Read, based on the “Health of the Planet: Leadership for Local Care and Global Impact” theme, will challenge the Rensselaer community to examine the human responsibilities that come with technology and innovation.

“The book addresses every aspect of President Jackson’s theme for the year,” said Susan Smith, faculty coordinator and lecturer in cognitive science in HASS. “It touches on a lot of different topics that pertain to how the advances we’re making in technology and science affect our future as human beings. We do have to think about what our responsibilities are.”

Humans 3.0 should be a concise summary of the history of how technology has changed the world and people, mostly for the better,” said Nowak, who has spent over a decade of his career writing about technology. “But it should also serve as a reminder that innovations, no matter how positive, inevitably come with negatives attached. Hopefully, the next generation of innovators will put more emphasis on that truism than perhaps their predecessors have.”

Nowak will visit the Rensselaer campus next month to discuss Humans 3.0, along with his upcoming publication, The Rise of Real-Life Superheroes and the Fall of Everything Else, which will be released this coming spring. The event, free and open to the public, will take place on September 23 at 7 p.m. in Room 3303 of the Russell Sage Laboratory on campus.  


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