SoSe 19: AI, Techno, Frankenstein: Humans and Machines in North American History
Topic: Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk all claim that Artifical Intelligence may soon grow into the greatest existential threat to humanity. Some people believe that technology and AI in ... read more
Topic: Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk all claim that Artifical Intelligence may soon grow into the greatest existential threat to humanity. Some people believe that technology and AI in particular, may be ready to overtake humans in intellectual abilities. Current debates focus on whether AI can be programmed to “produce humanity” by way of great works of music and visual arts, or conversely, to what an extent the final vista of human programming will be borne out by total surveillance, invisible border controls, and automated fake news. The U.S. is often portrayed as a “technological society,” and technology has often featured as a central feature of American history. That history of technology is in many ways a story of control, notably visions of gaining more or losing all of it complete with hair-raising scenarios associated with technological change and invention. What can we learn from this history in order to address the future? This course will peruse some of these by way of lecture, reading, discussion and hands-on virtual labs and a particular emphasis on the North American region.
Goal: This class is meant to be fun and an exploratory introduction. The purpose of this B.A. seminar is to help students to get a more thorough understanding of what it means to think and work like a historian. It is part of a the orientation module introducing students into the history of North America, modes of periodization and historical structures as well as various approaches to methodology and theory. To this end, we’ll study one topic – humanity and technology in U.S. history – on the basis of a variety primary and secondary sources. At the end of the course, students will be ready to enroll in future classes requiring a more in-depth knowledge of historiography and historical research.
Course requirements: Active and regular participation in class (no “sit-ins”): The first step to doing well in this class is to be there – read, prepare & show up! There is no way you will be part of the learning community if you are not present and well-prepared. If you need to be absent from the course, please notify the instructor ahead of time. Also: be familiar with, and ready to discuss required readings for class; participation in E-learning assignments; presentations; short papers; oral exam at the end of the term. If you do the work, you will do well! Finally: bring your computer BUT turn off your email, your phone and other social media if they are not required in class.
Smith, Merritt Roe, and Gregory Clancey, eds. Major Problems in the History of American Technology. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. ISBN: 9780669354720.
Cowan, Ruth Schwarz. A Social History of American Technology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1997. ISBN: 9780195046052.
humanityandtechnology.wordpress.com for digital references