EP&E 439 - The Ethics and Policy of New Technologies

Fall, 2002                                                                         Wed, 1:30-3:20

INSTRUCTORS

Dr. Bonnie Kaplan (Yale School of Medicine's Center for Medical Informatics, Department of Anesthesiology)

Dr. Nick Bostrom (Department of Philosophy)

OFFICE HOURS                                 W: 3:20-4:00 and by appointment

1 BRIEF DESCRIPTION

Using readings, films, and discussions, this course provides an interdisciplinary examination of the ethical and policy questions surrounding new or anticipated future technologies, including nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, cyborg technologies, surveillance, robotics, and psychopharmacology.

2 EXPANDED DESCRIPTION

Technological change, both present but especially future developments, may lead to the transformation of many fundamental parameters of the human condition and even the human organism itself.  This course takes an interdisciplinary approach to the normative, technological, and policy questions raised by these prospects. We feel that there is a lack of opportunity for students to learn about and reflect on the big picture of the human condition and what may lie in store for our species over the coming decades. With better technological foresight and a finer appreciation of the complex normative and strategic challenges ahead, students will be able to participate constructively in current and future debates about what should be done on an individual and social level to enhance the prospects that human society will continue to flourish in the times to come.

 

Topics Through readings, films, and discussion, we will examine technological change and the challenges this creates for ethics, policy, security, business, and individual decision-making.  Among the topics are: nanotechnology, machine intelligence, genetic engineering, surveillance technologies, information technology, weapons technology, virtual reality, and psychopharmacology.  We will examine both the technological and scientific basis for anticipated future capacities in these areas, concerns about global security and other kinds of risk, the potential benefits of human enhancement technologies, and the many urgent and complex ethical questions that need to be confronted so that the options that will become available will be used responsibly and for the human good rather than for destructive purposes.

Principal readings will be drawn from literary classics, philosophical, scientific, and policy writing.  This course seeks to bring together ideas from many different disciplines by including some of the most current thinking about these issues as well as several essential classic texts. We will also be discussing the broader ideas found in utopian and dystopian literature and how they relate to the technological options that may actually become available.   Sample readings and course outline are below.

Aims & Objectives

To introduce students to some of the main ideas and issues relating to anticipated technological developments that have potentially profound consequences for the human condition.

To encourage students to think critically and independently about the big picture of technological change and the challenges this creates for ethics, policy, security, business, and individual decision-making.

To enhance analytic reasoning ability and the capacity to cogently present complex ideas orally and in writing.

 

Grading                                                                                

Paper                                      60%

Participation                          40%

 

Papers will be 15-20 pages.  Students may choose either their own topic or to write on what the instructor assigns. The paper must integrate material from course readings and discussion with other material so as to demonstrate both knowledge of course themes and ideas and also the ability to think and research independently and critically in this domain.  The topic must be approved by the instructor 4 weeks prior to the due date.

 

Class participation is measured by intelligent contributions to class discussions. It is therefore essential that you have read and thought about the readings before each class.   Bringing into class discussion ideas from non-assigned sources is one way to participate.  These sources may include: suggested readings and similar material, popular culture manifestations of issues relevant to the course (e.g. movies, television shows, magazine articles, WWW material), and speakers from the bioethics working group on AI, Nanotech, and Transhumanism: Ethics, Technology, and Utopian Visions. Asking good questions is a way of getting brownie points, as is answering other students' questions in class. Showing understanding of the literature helps a lot, but also important is demonstrating ability to think about the issues independently and to integrate themes from the assignments, class discussions, and elsewhere.

 

Course Materials

Books are available at Book Haven and on reserve at CCL.  Course packs are at York Copy.  Ask for 2 packs, one each put together by Kaplan and Bostrom. Note: the out-of-print book by Jonathan Glover, What Sort of People Should there Be?, is included in one of the course packs.

 
9/4         
Week 1 - Overview

·         Nick Bostrom (ed.), 1999. "The Transhumanist FAQ". http://www.transhumanist.org/

 

9/11        Week 2 – Nanotechnology                [Nick]

·         Karl E. Drexler, 1985. Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology. New York: Doubleday. (chapters 1-7) http://www.foresight.org/EOC/

·         Karl E. Drexler, 2001. Machine-Phase Nanotechnology. Scientific American, 16 September 2001.

·         Karl E. Drexler, 1987-1991.Abrupt Change, Nonsense, Nobels, and Other Topics. Foresight Background 1, rev. 1.  http://www.foresight.org/Updates/Background1.html (extract)

 

9/18        Week 3 - Ideologies and Assumptions: Perfectability, Progress, and Technological Determinism                [Bonnie]

Technological Determinism

·         Bruce Bimber, 1994. Three Faces of Technological Determinism. In: Merritt Roe Smith & Leo Marx (eds.) Does Technology Drive History? The Dilemma of Technological Determinism. Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, pp. 80-100.  Read: pp. 80-89.

·         Peter C. Perdue, 1994.  Technological Determinism in Agrarian Societies.  In: Merritt Roe Smith & Leo Marx (eds.)  Does Technology Drive History? The Dilemma of Technological Determinism. Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, pp. 170-200.  Read: 174-178.

Historical Background

·         Gerald Holton, 1996.  Science and Progress Revisited.  In: Leo Marx and Bruce Mazlish (eds.) Progress: Fact or Illusion?  Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, pp. 9-26.  Read: 9-15, 20, 24.

·         Leo Marx, 1994.  The Idea of "Technology" and Postmodern Pessimism.  In: Merritt Roe Smith & Leo Marx (eds.) Does Technology Drive History? The Dilemma of Technological Determinism. Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, pp. 237-258.  Read:  pp. 247-249.

·         David F. Noble, 1997. Introduction: Technology and Religion.  The Religion of Technology: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Invention.  NY: Alfred A. Knopf,  Read: pp. 3-6,  9-10, 229.

Current Manifestations

·         N. Katherine Hayles, 1999.  How We Became PostHuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics.  Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, pp. 1-4.

·         Rob Kling and Suzanne Iacono. 1988. The Mobilization of Support for Computerization: the Role of Computerization Movements.” Social Problems 35(3):226-243.

Recommended

·         Neil Postman. 1992. Chapter 5: The Broken Defenses . Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology New York: Vintage Books, Random House, pp. 71-91.

 

9/25        Week 4 - Life Extension, Cryonics, Uploading, and Game Playing                [Nick]

·         Merkle, R. “Cryonics Overview.” Webpage at http://www.merkle.com/cryo/

·         K. Eric Drexler, 1985. Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology. New York: Doubleday. (chapters 8-10) http://www.foresight.org/EOC/

·         Max More: “Meaningfulness and Morality.” Cryonics, vol. 12, no. 2, 1991.

·         Bernard Suits: The Grasshopper. Games, Life, and Utopia. University of Toronto 1974 (extract: pp. 1-24 and pp. 156-178)

Recommended

·         James Hughes, 2001. “The Future of Death: Cryonics and the Telos of Liberal Individualism.” Journal of Evolution and Technology, vol. 6. http://www.transhumanist.com/archive.html#6

 

10/2        Week 5 – Philosophical issues    [Nick]

·         Jonathan Glover – What Sort of People Should there Be? Penguin, 1984.

 

10/9        Week 6 - Artificial Intelligence and Robots    [Bonnie]

·         Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. 1942. http://members.evansville.net/bob/robots/laws.html

·         Isaac Asimov, 1940.  Robbie.  First published as “Strange Playfellow” in Super Science Stories, 1940.  In:  I, Robot.  Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1950, pp. 19-39.

·         N. Katherine Hayles, 1999.  How We Became PostHuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics.  Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, pp. xi-xii.

·         David F. Noble, 1997.  The Religion of Technology: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Invention.  NY: Alfred A. Knopf - Chapt. 10: The Immortal Mind: Artificial Intelligence, pp. 143-171, Read: pp. 158-165, 170-171.

·         Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence.  What is Friendly AI? - excerpts from http://www.singinst.org/friendly/whatis.html

·         Alan M. Turing. Computing Machinery and Intelligence. Mind 59(236): 433-460. http://www.oxy.edu/departments/cog-sci/courses/1998/cs101/texts/Computing-machinery.html - Read: Sections 1-3, optional Sections 5 (last paragraph)-7

·         Steven M. Wise, 2002.  Drawing the Line:  Science and the Case for Animal Rights.  Cambridge, Mass: Perseus Books, pp. 32-34.

·         Steven M. Wise, 2000.  Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals. Cambridge, Mass.  Perseus Books, pp. 156-157.

Recommended (not included in course pack)

·         Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg, 1992. The Positronic Man, Doubleday - the basis for the movie "The Bicentennial Man"

·         Eliezer Yudkowsky, 2001. Creating Friendly AI. http://www.singinst.org/CFAI/index.html

 

10/16     Week 7 – Superintelligence and the Singularity Hypothesis                [Nick]

·         Vernor Vinge, 1993. "The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era". Whole Earth Review, Winter issue. http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/vinge/misc/singularity.html

·         Hans Moravec, 1998. Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind. Oxford University Press. (chapters 1-6)

Recommended

·         Nick Bostrom, 1998. “How long before superintelligence?” International Journal of Future Studies, Vol, 2. http://www.nickbostrom.com/superintelligence.html

·         Ray Kurzweil, 2000. The Age of Spiritual Machines. Penguin.

 

10/23     Week 8 –Human Relationships with Technology                [Bonnie]

·         Sherry Turkle, 1984. Introduction: The Evocative Object , and Chapter 9: The Human Spirit in a Computer Culture.  The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit. Simon & Schuster, New York., pp.11-25, 306-313.

·         Joseph Weizenbaum, 1976. Introduction. Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation.  W. H. Freeman, San Francisco, pp. 1-16.

·         Jeffrey R. Young, 2002.  Self-Described 'Cyborg' Reveals Promise and Dangers of Wearable Computers: Engineering professor has been wired for 20 years.  The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 3, 2002, A31. http://chronicle.com/free/v48/i34/34a03101.htm

·         Shoshana Zuboff, 1988.  Introduction: Dilemmas of Transformation in the Age of the Smart Machine.  In the Age of the Smart Machine, New York: Basic Books, pp. 3-12.

 

10/30     Week 9 - Utopias & Dystopias                [Bonnie]

·         Karl Čapek, 1921. R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots)

·         Mary Shelly, 1831. Frankenstein. http://www.georgetown.edu/irvinemj/english016/franken/franken.htm

 

11/6        Week 10 – Brave New World, Paradise Engineering, and Mood Drugs                [Nick]

·         David Pearce, "The Hedonistic Imperative". http://www.hedweb.com/hedab.htm  (everything except chapter 2)

·         Aldous Huxley, 1932. Brave New World

·         David Pearce, 1998. “Brave New World? A Defense of Paradise Engineering”. http://www.huxley.net/.

·         Robert Nozick , 1974. On ‘The experience machine’ In Anarchy, State and Utopia, pp. 42-43.

11/13     Week 11 – The Risks of Human Extinction                [Nick]

·         Karl E. Drexler, 1985. Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology. New York: Doubleday. (chapters 11-15) http://www.foresight.org/EOC/

·         Nick Bostrom, 2001. "Existential Risks: Analyzing Human Extinction Scenarios and Related Hazards" http://www.nickbostrom.com/existential/risks.html

·         Marc Gubrud, 2001. "Nanotechnology and International Security" http://www.foresight.org/Conferences/MNT05/Papers/Gubrud/index.html

Recommended

·         Robin Hanson, "The Great Filter". http://hanson.gmu.edu/greatfilter.html.

·         CIA Report, 2000. Global Trends 2015: A Dialogue About the Future with Nongovernment Experts. http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/globaltrends2015/.

 

11/27     Week 12 – Human Dignity, Values, and Quality of Life         [Bonnie]

·         Leon Kass, 2000. The Wisdom of Repugnance: Why We Should Ban the Cloning of Human Beings. The New Republic, June 2, 1997, pp. 17-26.

·         E. F. Shumacher, 1973. Chapter 4: Buddist Economics.  Small is Beautiful, New York: Harper & Row, pp. 50-58.  Reprinted in: Albert H. Teich (ed.), Technology and the Future, 8th ed., Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000, pp. 83-89.

·         Gregory Stock, 2002.  Redesigning Humans: Our Inevitable Genetic Future.  Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Co.  Chapter 2: Our Commitment to Our Flesh, pp. 19-34. 

·         Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Harrison Bergeron.  In: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.  Welcome to the Monkey House: A Collection of Short Works by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.  Delacorte Press, 1968.  pp. 7-13.

·         Jack Williamson, 1947. With Folded Hands.  Astounding Science Fiction, Vol. XXXIX, No. 5, July.  Also available in  The Humanoids,  Jack Williamson, Doubleday 1980, 1-47.

 

 12/4 Week 13 - Policies and Politics: Rethinking Our Relationship with Technology                [Bonnie]

·         Francis Fukuyama, 2002.  Biotechnology and the Threat of a Posthuman Future.  The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 22, 2002, pp. B7-B10.  Excerpted from Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002.

·         Donna J. Haraway, 1991.  Simians, Cyborgs,, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, London: Free Association Books - Chapter 8: A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,  pp. 149-181.  Read: pp. 149-155, 177-178, 180-181.

·         Bruce Mazlish, 1967.  The Fourth Discontinuity. Technology and Culture 8(1):1-15.

·         Langdon Winner, 1980.  Do Artifacts Have Politics? Daedalus, 109:121-136.  Reprinted in: Albert H. Teich (ed.), Technology and the Future, 8th ed., Bedford/St. Martin's, pp. 150-167.

Recommended

·         Nancy Kress, 1994 (reprint).  Beggars in Spain.  Mass Market Paperback.

·         Richard Sclove, 2000. Technological Politics as if Democracy Really Mattered.

·         In: Albert H. Teich (ed.), Technology and the Future, 8th ed., Bedford/St. Martin's, pp. 103-120.