Computing and its consequences

HPSS*S689 -- Blumberg

Notes: January 29


"One major distinction is that modern technology is an enterprise and a process, whereas earlier technology was a possession and a state. … From pottery to monumental architecture, from food growing to shipbuilding, from textiles to engines of war, from time measuring to stargazing: tools, techniques and objectives remained essentially the same over long times; improvements were sporadic and unplanned. … [With modern technology] [e]very new step in whatever direction of whatever technological field tends not to approach an equilibrium or saturation point in the process of fitting means to ends (nor is it meant to), but, on the contrary, to give rise, if successful, to further steps in all kinds of direction and with a fluidity of the ends themselves. ." from Hans Jonas, "Toward a Philosophy of Technology" (1979)

"The goal of industrial society is to establish a Gross National Welfare Society, aiming to become a cradle-to-grave high welfare society. The information society will aim for the realization of time-value (value that designs and actualizes future time), for each human being. The goal of society will be for everyone to enjoy a worthwhile life in the pursuit of greater future possibilities." from Yoneji Masuda, Managing in the Information Society (1990)

1. From posthumanism to information society

After last week's discussion of literature, or at least autobiography, and the struggle to develop a personal relation to technology, we turn to the social sciences this week (and next) to think about the social consequences of computing. We begin with an analysis of the first six essays in Webster's The Information Society Reader, and the question of which of the "advocates" and "critics" you think your own position is closest to.

2. The Information Society Reader, Parts 2-8.

We'll assign each of the remaining sections of the book to particular students, and ask them to present the sections for which they're responsible. The topics of these sections are: Post-Industrial Society, The Network Society, Transformations, Divisions, Surveillance, Democracy and Virtualities.

3. The Robopet Exercise

Last time we didn't have time for a discussion of the "Robopet" exercise, so time permitting we'll talk about it today and discuss some the issues from the piece that could figure into the final exam. This may also be an opportunity to talk about your experiences with the "bots" from two weeks ago.