Computers and the Internet, perhaps more than any other technology, have transformed society over the past 50 years. In developed nations, at least, they have enabled dramatic increases in human productivity; an explosion of options for news, entertainment, and communication; and fundamental breakthroughs in almost every branch of science and engineering. At the same time, they have contributed to unprecedented threats to privacy; whole new categories of crime and anti-social behavior; major disruptions in the job market; and the large-scale concentration of risk into systems capable of catastrophic failure. In this discussion- and writing-oriented class, we will consider all of this and more, with the goal of better understanding how to shape technological change in ways that maximize the benefits and minimize the costs.
The exact topics to be covered will depend in large part on the interests of students enrolled. Possibilities include:
We'll also be watching the news; class discussion may be shaped by current events.