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Magic and Technology

HNRS 2033 Sec. 04 - Spring 2020

Professor Wesley Shrum Department of Sociology

Tu 4:30 PM - 7:30 PM
218 French House

How can we understand recent and future technological developments that promise to change the very nature of what it means to be human? As Arthur C. Clarke once wrote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” With a special emphasis on Artificial Intelligence as a theme, this course will change regularly owing to rapid advances in technology. In particular, the entities created by Artificial Intelligence (sometimes viewed as “Superintelligence”), may be compared and contrasted with the ways that humans have conceptualized unseen but often influential entities such as gods and ghosts, androids and cyborgs. To what extent are agents of traditional religious, occult, and spiritual practice similar to or different from entities now enabled and projected by technology? In what sense are they “actors”? What rights should they have and what protections should humans have against their misuse and autonomous development? Should research on “superintelligent” beings be allowed?

Fulfills General Education:

English Composition
Social Sciences