Welcome to UNIV 200-10 “Time/Machine“, an Integrated Perspectives course taught by instructors from English (Prof. Michael Drexler) and Computer Science (Prof. Felipe Perrone). The learning objectives of this course are centered at the idea of looking at the interactions between society and technology in past and in the future. We will be studying material from literary and academic sources with the overarching goal of furthering our understanding of how our cultural mindsets evolve over time.

Course description

At the end of the 19th Century, the discovery of the laws of thermodynamics had a profound impact on western culture. It changed how people thought about labor, sexuality, and the psyche. Humans had “operating systems” that could be programmed to resist fatigue, perform at optimum efficiency, and work together to perform complex tasks quickly. Since the mid-20th century, the computer revolution once again has proven transformative. New levels of efficiency, productivity, and cost containment even led to the replacement of human beings, who were contrastingly slow, inaccurate, and costly. New means of production, though, were hardly the only things to change in response to these technologies. In both cases, new models for thinking about mind and body emerged. New ethical dilemmas sprung up as well. In this course, we will study both moments using humanist methods of cultural study and scientific knowledge to explore these issues.

The course is structured as three complementary modules: work, ethics, and memory. In each of the modules, we will present students with a variety of readings, both fiction and non-fiction. Within these broad themes, we will investigate more specific topics. In the work module, we will look at societal transformations that have resulted from different approaches to labor, from slavery through to mechanization. Our ethics module will introduce us to a range of ethical theories that can help us navigate dilemmas that emerge with the introduction of new technologies. Finally, the memory module will instigate reflection on how we evolve as individuals and as collectives when our retention of facts range from ephemeral and imperfect to permanent and accurate. Our teaching materials include readings from literary fiction and science fiction, as well as articles from scholarly sources.

We expect that students will visit this site and the course site on Moodle every day in order to stay up to date with reading and writing assignments.