Brandeis Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (BOLLI)

Infinite Growth on a Finite Planet: Money, Information and AI in the Age of Ecological Crisis

Course Number


Study Group Leader (SGL)

Kemal Onur Toker


This course will take place virtually on Zoom. Participation requires a device (ideally a computer or tablet, rather than a cell phone) with a camera and microphone in good working order and basic familiarity with using Zoom and accessing email.

10-Week Course

Feb. 26 - May 6. No Class April 22.


Our current economic system is based on the idea that it's possible to achieve endless growth, despite the fact that we live in a world with finite resources. This has been criticized for centuries by people who argue that capitalism's relentless pursuit of growth will eventually lead to the depletion and degradation of the natural resources that support all life on Earth. However, some believe that digital technologies could provide a way to trade in goods that are not limited by ecological constraints. The AI driven "knowledge economy" has also been proposed as a possible escape from the scarcity of material resources. In this course, we will examine the origins of the capitalist drive to extract the infinite from the finite. We will read works by economists, AI experts, and modern ecologists, studying short pdf extracts provided by the SGL. Through our analysis, we will confront the social and environmental challenges we face in a world where information technologies such as AI are ubiquitous. Note: This course was given in Fall 2023 under the name “Infinite Growth on a Finite Planet: a Renaissance Dream in the Digital Age”. 

Group Leadership Style

Roughly the same amount of lecture and discussion.

Course Materials

The SGL will provide PDFs of 10 different short texts as well as links to online videos.

Preparation Time

2 hours per week.


Kemal Onur Toker has taught Global Politics and Renaissance Literature in the UK, Turkey, and the US. His most recent academic article appeared in a collection entitled Money and Magic in Early Modern Drama (2022, Bloomsbury).