It’s difficult to separate humans from their tools. We eat with them, we communicate with them, we think with them, we worship with them. Our tools and technologies give us insight into but also power over ourselves, others, and the world. And this is both the promise and peril of this most basic of relations, that of humans and their technologies.
To what extent do we not only make our technologies but our technologies remake us? In this course, we will consider a spectrum of outlooks: from the claims of techno-utopians anticipating a future in which humans finally merge with their machines to the warnings of technology skeptics fearing a future in which humans finally forego what makes them human. We consider the kinds of empirical and ethical knowledge we need to make sense of these competing visions of how humans relate to their technologies. What kinds of evidence do we need? What are the possibilities and limits of empirical knowledge when reflecting on the reciprocity of humans and their technologies? How do our technologies shape how we relate to ourselves, others, and the world? How do they inform different visions of the good life?
We’ll consider these big questions by focusing on key empirical and ethical questions surrounding a series of contemporary debates, which could include: genetic engineering, eugenics, human reproduction and cloning, radical life extension and enhancement, biohacking, self-quantification and algorithmic self-hood, and machine learning. In each of these case studies, we’ll be concerned with the core elements of the Empirical as well as the Ethical Engagements.