A few students have taken me up on my final essay suggestion: explore alternative responses to the Vital Question (as posed by William James): "What is this world going to be? What is life eventually to make of itself?"
It's a question about human nature, the possibility of progress, of our capacity for cooperation and kindness and compassion, and of many particular facets that James could not have imagined.
I'll be interested to see where people choose to take the question. One possibility is the biotech angle:
"Where will synthetic biology lead us?" asks Michael Specter (author of Denialism). Some think life's about to start making of itself a creator of brand-new forms of life-- not in the Wittgensteinian sense, but for real. What might await our form of life, at the other end of that rabbit-hole?
"If the science truly succeeds, it will make it possible to supplant the world created by Darwinian evolution with one created by us." O brave new world, that has such reasonable-sounding "biological engineers" as Drew Endy in it...
Thing is, this isn't really even "long-term" thinking,
the future is now.
Bill McKibben, for one, says "Enough!"