STS 310

I, Robot ? Humans and Machines in the 20th and 21st Centuries

In the mid 20th century, science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov envisioned the world in 2029 filled with complex and autonomous machines, capable of caring for children and engaging in interplanetary travel, mining, and political and military action. In contrast to this fictional world, how and why did the real inventors of computers, cybernetics, and robotic machinery create these technologies? What future(s) did they imagine for their inventions, and how did they understand the relationship between humans and machines? Did they envision an Asimovian future or something completely different? Did these technologies challenge them to re-think what it means to be human? Why or why not? In this course, students investigate the history of these fields to develop a better understanding of technology, society, and values in the 20th and 21st centuries.