Lectures and Special Events

2018 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate

February 13, 2018

LeFrak Theater

Isaac Asimov suggested three laws of robotics as ethical safeguards in the development of artificial intelligence, but as Alexa guides our homes and automated cars replace human drivers, are those three laws enough? The power of A.I. is opening doors to limitless possibilities—are we ready? Join Neil deGrasse Tyson, Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, and a panel of experts as they explore and debate the benefits and consequences of a future with A.I.

Meet the Panelists


John Giannandrea is currently a Senior Vice President of Engineering at Google, where he leads the Search and Google AI teams. In this role, John is responsible for overseeing product and business development in these areas, as well as leading longer-term technology initiatives at the company. John joined Google in 2010 following the acquisition of Metaweb, a company that he co-founded with Danny Hillis, and whose technology became the foundation for the Google Knowledge Graph. Previously John was a co-founder and CTO of Tellme Networks, which was acquired by Microsoft Corporation in 2007. John is a native of Scotland and a graduate of the University of Strathclyde. 


Helen Greiner co-founded iRobot Corporation, maker of the iconic Roomba Vacuuming Robot, and founded the drone company CyPhy Works.  For her work in robotics, Helen has been honored as a demo god, best leader, pioneer, global leader of tomorrow, young global leader, entrepreneur of the year, innovator of the next century, presidential advisor, and good housekeeper!  The National Academy of Engineering has recognized her for leadership in the design, development, and application of practical robots.

Ruchir Puri_Asimov18_2.6.18

Ruchir Puri is Chief Architect, IBM Watson, and an IBM Fellow, who has held various technical, research and engineering leadership roles across IBM's AI and Research businesses. Puri is an IEEE Fellow, as well as the inventor of over 50 U.S. patents and the author of over 120 publications on software and hardware automation technologies.

Max_Tegmark _Asimov18_2.6.18

Max Tegmark is a professor doing physics and AI research at MIT, and advocates for positive use of technology as president of the Future of Life Institute. He is the author of over 200 publications as well as the New York Times bestsellers “Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” and "Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality". His work with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey on galaxy clustering shared the first prize in Science magazine’s “Breakthrough of the Year: 2003.”

Michael Wellman_Asimov18_2.6.18

Michael P. Wellman is Lynn A. Conway Collegiate Professor of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Michigan, where he leads the Strategic Reasoning Group. Wellman's research develops computational market mechanisms and game-theoretic reasoning methods, currently focusing on implications of artificial intelligence for financial markets and the financial system. He is a Fellow of AAAI and ACM.


NEW THIS YEAR: Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate Ticket Lottery
Due to the growing popularity of this event, the opportunity to purchase tickets was distributed through a lottery this year, with a 2 ticket per person limit. Registration for the lottery is now closed and all tickets have been sold.

The late Dr. Isaac Asimov, one of the most prolific and influential authors of our time, was a dear friend and supporter of the American Museum of Natural History. In his memory, the Hayden Planetarium is honored to host the annual Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate—generously endowed by relatives, friends, and admirers of Isaac Asimov and his work—bringing the finest minds in the world to the Museum each year to debate pressing questions on the frontier of scientific discovery. Proceeds from ticket sales of the Isaac Asimov Memorial Debates benefit the scientific and educational programs of the Hayden Planetarium.