arrow heads HPSC X210 Technology and Culture

Fall 2008 Schedule and Syllabus


(Prof.) Colin Allen <> Goodbody Hall 113, 855-8916
Office hours: M 1:45-2:45; W 11-12 (at IMU); and by apointment

Subject Matter

Although human technology predates science, technology and science have been become so intertwined that it is impossible to understand one without understanding the other. As technology has developed from the production of individually-crafted stone axes to the products of a massive scientific enterprise which has given us everything from supercomputers to weapons of mass destruction, so too has our conception of technology changed. We have gone from viewing technology as the controllable product of deliberate human artifice to viewing it as possessing its own evolutionary dynamics which put it beyond effective human control. As our relationships to technology have changed, so too have human attitudes to it diversified, ranging from techno-utopianism, through passive acceptance, to a level of techno-phobia that sometimes even leads to terrorist acts. This course begins with a survey of the philosophy of technology during which we will consider questions such as the following: Is technology a uniquely human trait? Is modern technology the product of a particular human culture? What do science and technology have to do with each other? Is technology gendered? Is technological change inevitable or desirable? During the second part of the course will focus developments in autonomous software and robotics that lead to questions about the limits of technology and the possibility and desirability of scientific and technological approaches to ethical decision making.


Assignments and Grading

You will be assigned a course grade based two exams (20% each) and a portfolio(60%) that you will maintain and submit at regular periods for evaluation. Each iteration of your portfolio should contain the following elements:

The portfolio should be cumulative -- i.e., each time you turn in a copy, it should contain the previous material as well. The portfolio will be graded according to the following criteria:

Format: Your portfolio may be submitted on paper. Alternatively, a variety of electronic formats are possible, including word-processed documents, websites, blogs, or OnCourse folders.Regardless of the format selected, your portfolio should be clearly organized so that the structure outlined above is obvious.

All work must be entirely your own, with appropriate citations used when the ideas of others are discussed or reported. See the IU School of Education plagiarism tutorial if you are unsure what is required.

Reading and Assignment Schedule

DateTopicReadingsAssignment details
Week 1
10/27Science and TechnologyPoT1 (20 pages)
10/29Technology & TechnocracyPoT2 + PoT3 (12 + 15 pages)
Week 2
11/03Minds and BodiesPoT4 + PoT5 (17 + 14 pages)
11/05Determinism & AutonomyPoT6 + PoT7 (21 + 7 pages)
Week 3
11/10Artificial Moral Agents (AMAs)MM-Intro + MM1 + MM2 (9 + 12 + 12 pages)Portfolio 1.0 due at or before beginning of class
11/12Technolimits to AMAsMM3 + MM4 (17 + 17 pages)
Week 4
11/17Rules for RobotsMM5 + MM6 (8 + 15 pages )
11/19Emergent MoralityMM7 + MM8 (17 + 8 pages)
Week 5
11/24Three laws safe? + **MIDTERM EXAM** MM9 + MM10 (13 + 31 pages)
11/26No Class: Thanksgiving break[Optional: MM11]
Week 6
12/01Man the toolmaker? Animals and Human NaturePoT8 (24 pages)Portfolio 2.0 due at or before beginning of class
12/03Man(?) the toolmaker: Feminist perspectivesPoT9 (20 pages)
Week 7
12/08What now?PoT11 + MM12 (22 + 18 pages)
12/10Summary and Review
Week 8
12/17**FINAL EXAM** 7:15-9:15 p.m.Portfolio v3.0 due

Statement for Students with Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact IU Disability Services for Students.

Statement about Academic Misconduct

University rules concerning academic misconduct will be rigorously enforced in this class. See IU Code of Ethics, Part II for details.

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