PPY/JU-375H: Technology, Self and Society

3:00-4:20 MW

Dr. Scott Kimbrough

Council 132



Course description:

As technology transforms both work and leisure, our understanding of ourselves and our relations to others inevitably evolves as well. Computer technology poses particularly vexing challenges to our self-conception. This course will examine some of the most philosophically puzzling developments related to computers: the internet, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence. The internet fosters anonymity in human relationships even as it connects more people than ever before. Virtual reality blurs the line between simulation and the real thing, putting pressure on traditional conceptions of objectivity and fragmenting conceptions of identity. Artificial intelligence forces us to confront what it is to be a person, human or otherwise. Can persons be made? Can we reconcile humanistic traditions with an emerging technological worldview that increasingly treats life itself as a technological product? To give context to these questions, the course will begin by investigating the nature of technology, including whether there is such a thing as a specifically technological worldview, what values technology implicitly promotes, and what effect it has on the concept of individuality.


Required Texts:

Additional readings for the course will be handed out or accessible from the course web page.

Course requirements:

Weekly Journal (15%): Each week (unless directed otherwise), write a one-page commentary about a course-related internet site, academic or commercial research project, news story, advertising campaign, etc. Some weeks you will be given specific assignments, other weeks you will be given free rein to find something interesting.

Argumentative Essays (15% each): Two 3-4 page argumentative essays.

Research paper (20%): One approximately ten page research paper. The research paper will be posted on the course web page along with an abstract (200 words or less), bibliographic information, annotated links to related web-sites, etc.

Research presentation (10%): A summary of the research paper findings will be presented to the class.

Final Exam (25%): Essay format.


Assignments will be announced in class and posted on the course web-page.


There is no worse academic sin than plagiarism. Plagiarism consists in copying the work of another, in whole or in part, without citing the source. Plagiarized work will receive a zero.