Technology Equals Progress?
Technology is often, unquestioningly, perceived as a measure of the advancement of a society. The advantages that it provides, from the eradication of diseases to the capabilities of mobile communication, cause us to embrace technology. It is seen as a powerful tool for solving problems and alleviating the chores of regular routines. But does technological advancement ensure universal benefits? Every new development is a consequence of choices made by the members of a society.
The goal of this course is to explore the inextricable connection between new technologies and the underlying values of the society developing them. We will examine current and historical examples to better appreciate the role of each.
The Future is Now
What is the future of the planet and the humans on that planet, and what role will technology play in creating that future? In this course, we will focus on a few key technologies that are rapidly changing our world. What is the future of parenthood in a world where technologies such as IVF and genetic engineering are becoming increasingly accessible to the masses? Will it be a future of genetically perfected children? What about other kinds of modification to human beings, digital and otherwise? What is the future of genetically engineered food? How are new communication tools changing our patterns of communication and ourselves? Is ‘24/7' technology threatening our privacy?
We will ask, more broadly, how and why are these technologies chosen by societies? Do we act — indeed, can we act — as individuals to control our destinies when technological change seems to threaten other human values, or do we need a collective solution? In other words, in a modern technological world, how much can we control our fates, either as individuals or as a society?
A World of Vanishing Borders
This course examines controversial issues that have arisen as the world becomes more integrated and as national borders become less of a barrier to the flow of goods, services, ideas, and cultures.
Technological progress and policy changes have both contributed to this globalization. We will discuss questions such as: Does international trade improve or harm the environment? How does immigration affect domestic welfare? Should Greece leave the euro area? Is military intervention in a foreign country justified by widespread human rights abuses? Is war likely between the great powers? Throughout the course we will look at both the economics and the politics of globalization.
Don't Fear the Reaper: Living with Dying in America
This class takes an interdisciplinary approach to the subject of how we as a society cope with death in America.
What are the cultural observances like, and how are they changing? We now have life-extending technologies, some whose benefits are unproven. Just because we can extend life, or more properly, delay death, should we? What are the implications of some of the dangerous ways that young adults socialize? Does a propensity for risky behavior necessarily indicate that the people who carry out such behavior are "death-welcomers?" Is there a sense of immortality among young adults that makes such behavior more acceptable? What are the ways that one's attitude towards medical ethics, social justice and religious/spiritual beliefs are informed by one's acceptance of, or fear of death? Can a healthy view of death and dying lead to a healthier outlook on life and an increased orientation towards holistic wellness? We will address these questions and many others and, believe it or not, have a really good time doing so!