CS009: Computers and Human Values
Department of Computer Science, Brown University
Notes, October 6th -- Roger B. Blumberg

A Cyborg is in the House

We're fortunate indeed to have Michael Chorost with us today, for our first discussion of Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human (Houghton Mifflin, 2005). Although we eventually want to analyze the book in the context of the works by Moravec and Arnold, and the unit of the course that questions the relationship between computers and human identity, we'll start with introductions and questions for Michael about particular claims/passages/chapters in the book.

It's possible to read Moravec and Arnold as each representing a typical reaction to modern technology, and especially to digital technology. The first reaction is to embrace the new, allow it to rewrite the old in senses epistemological, political and ethical, and to think about and work toward a promising "futuristic" future. A second reaction is to bristle, to defend elements of the old (or the "classical") against the encroachment of "modern trends", and to reassert the values of some variety of humanism. Is there a third reaction? Does Rebuilt seem to you such a "third way"?

For Next Time: Read the excerpts from Lyotard's The Post-Modern Condition and those from N. Katherine Hayles' How We Became Post-Human. Topics for the first paper should be posted to WebCT by Friday, October 14th. The papers will be due by the 21st. Please feel free to come see me anytime to talk about the topics, the papers, or both.

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