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Fenway Park to host massive, interactive HUBweek discussion

Michael Sandel will deliver a lecture in Fenway Park.
Michael Sandel will deliver a lecture in Fenway Park.Rose Lincoln/Harvard University

A digital media executive, a celebrated cellist, and a Harvard-reared comedy writer will help steer a massive interactive discussion of technology and ethics at Fenway Park in October, in an event that will help kick off Boston’s inaugural HUBweek innovation festival.

The Fenway Forum, led by Harvard professor Michael Sandel, is intended to take on some of the thorniest topics raised by the rapid advances in many fields of science. Can we trust computers the same way we trust our friends and family? Would it be worth living 1,000 years?

Among the panelists at the Oct. 4 forum will be Arianna Huffington, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and Alexis Wilkinson, the former editor of The Harvard Lampoon who now writes for the HBO show “Veep.”


While Sandel says he has not decided on the exact topics, he said he sees the event — and the venue — as an ideal combination to begin discussions that will endure throughout HUBweek, which runs from Oct. 3 through Oct. 10.

“What we really want to do is create an inviting and accessible way of debating some of the big ethical and civic questions that we face today as citizens,” Sandel said Tuesday.

He plans to put topics before the panelists and open the issues up to discussion with audience members who can participate via text message and in-person voting. Tickets for the forum are available on the HUBweek website .

Civic leaders have said they hope HUBweek will become a showcase for Boston as a center for technology, medicine, education, and art.

Organizers have likened the effort to well-known gatherings such as South by Southwest in Austin, Texas; Art Basel in Miami; and the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. HUBweek is a joint venture among MIT, Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital, and The Boston Globe.


Sandel, an author and professor of government, taught the first Harvard course to be offered for free online and on television. The course on the subject of justice has enrolled more than 15,000 students, according to the university.

He has hosted similar events around the world, speaking at Australia’s Sydney Opera House and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. A discussion in South Korea drew about 14,000 people, he said.

The Fenway event is expected to have a similar capacity. He said the venue will be a special place for such a discussion, likening the park to a modern-day “agora” — an ancient Greek civic meeting place.

“This is how democracy was born,” he said. “In a great, outdoor gathering place.”

Andy Rosen can be reached at andrew.rosen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @andyrosen.