Technically Human: The Art and the Ethics of Technology

Screen Shot 2019-11-26 at 7.57.46 PM.pngGoogle. Facebook. Twitter. Uber. Tinder. The way that we navigate our world and our lives has been fundamentally changed by the ideas, the decisions, the designs, and the developers of 20th and 21st century technologists. The products of those decisions, designs, and developments have changed how we understand and relate to each other.

Read more about my work in ethical technology here and read more about the new Ethical Center for Technology @ Cal Poly here:

Throughout the history of technological production, fiction has played a central role, collaborating with technologists in market production and fueling the desire for technological creation and futuristic environments. How do works of imagination—namely science fiction—help us understand the ethical questions that technological innovation poses? Science fiction is often engineered in conversation with consulting technologists; technology is often engineered in conversation with the visions created by imagineers, including writers, artists, and filmmakers. What is the dynamic between imagining as a practice of building fictional worlds, and imagining as a practice of building real technologies? What does science fiction’s vision of the future tells about the culture of technological innovation, and what does science fiction about how we understand as “the human,” even as science changes what it means to be human?

In this course, we will look critically at the concept of “the good’ and “the human” in relationship to tech, in order to understand the hopes, the challenges, and the consequences of technological production. We will also investigate the structure and the culture of the tech industry to consider how the passions, the biases, and the blind spots of those who govern and participate in its culture are built into seemingly neutral forms of technology. We will read art that engages with the complexities of technological design and its global distribution. Finally, we will investigate the relationship between art and tech to consider how humanists might participate in–and perhaps alter–the course and the culture of technology in today’s world.

In addition to exploring the genre of science fiction, this course will consider the place of humanistic inquiry, specifically literary inquiry, in the sphere of technological production. How can a humanistic inquiry like literary studies live and work alongside technological production, and what would a humanistic approach to technology look like, accomplish, enable, or perhaps block? How might humanists, and a type of culturally critical and particularly literary way of thinking, intervene into conversations about the ethics of technological production?

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