Winter 2019 HC 222H: Into the Strange New World: Ethics through Science Fiction

Winter Term, 2018-2019

Professor: Caroline Lundquist

4.00 credits

CRN 23356: Monday & Wednesday, 10:00 – 11:20 @ GSH 103

Today, as in the past, our technology often outpaces our ethics. Before we are able to imagine much less address the moral consequences of the latest scientific discovery or technological innovation, we find it is already reshaping our lives in ethically-significant ways. Here, traditional ethical philosophy is of limited use. We- ethicists and laypeople alike- tend to focus our ethical reflection on the here and now, or on the problems that already confront us. The same is rarely true of science fiction, which from its inception has not only anticipated the technologies that will shape our world, but has also, and perhaps more importantly, called readers to think about the ethical consequences of that reshaping. Science fiction therefore has a special role to play in our contemporary ethical thinking, by pointing out in advance the ethical questions that are likely to arise in response to technologies that do not yet, but will feasibly soon, exist. 

This course enlists an array of historical and contemporary science fiction in order to revive and rethink some of the most pressing questions in historical ethics in the light of emerging scientific and technological advancements (such as artificial intelligence, genetic manipulation, body modification, cloning and social engineering), and in order to imagine, articulate and begin to address the ethical questions that may and should arise in response to these advancements. In this course we prepare ourselves to dive into the strange new world that is already on the horizon, and approaching fast.