HC 101H: Artificial Intelligence: The Culture of Minds and Machines

Professor: Casey Shoop

4.00 credits

• CRN 16616: Monday & Wednesday, 1415-1545 @ ALL 101

• CRN 16618: Monday & Wednesday, 1615-1745 @ ALL 101

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  Philip K. Dick’s titular question frames the concerns of this course on the relationship between minds and machines. Computers increasingly talk to us, make book recommendations, drive cars; they are even said to paint pictures and compose poetry. But what does it mean to think about an android’s dreams or desires or capacity for love?  Is this a category mistake? What is the line between the human and the machine? Together we will investigate this precarious boundary between consciousness and its constructed other, the android. Indeed, the figure of the android invites us to consider some of the fundamental questions of liberal arts education about what it means to be a person, about free will and determinism,  about the ethical responsibilities toward non-human otherness, among many other concerns. There is a rich history of cultural representation on the relationship between minds and machines, and we will explore this interdisciplinary archive of literature, philosophy, science writing, and film: from classical automata to Turing’s computing machinery, from Descartes’ machine to Bostrum’s superintelligence, from Shelley’s Frankenstein to Scott’s Blade Runner. Along the way, we’ll consider some of the increasingly pressing debates about machine intelligence in contemporary life.