"Cyborg Manual," runran. Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0.

AI, Transhumanism, & Posthumanism: Some Introductory Readings

I‘m very excited to be co-facilitating – with colleague Priscilla Stadler, the Center for Teaching & Learning Instructional Design Manager – a semester-long faculty seminar this fall. This is an outgrowth of the NEH Technology, Self, and Society seminar that I was part of for the past two years. Our seminar, Future Humans, will be more pedagogy-focused, but will draw on the themes of transhumanism, posthumanism, and AI that came up in the Technology, Self, & Society sessions.  Here’s the description we put together:

How has our relationship with technology changed in our lifetimes, and what does this mean for the future? How does technology change our relationships, our use of resources, our bodies, and our very understanding of humans and consciousness? What does it mean to live at a time when – according to some experts – we are on the brink of an intelligence explosion? Faculty interested in learning and teaching about any of these (and other) questions related to technology, superintelligence/AI, and/or transhumanism are invited to apply for this one-semester seminar. Readings, tools and resources will be provided for faculty in any discipline interested in helping students explore aspects of ethical, legal, medical, economic, privacy, cultural and other issues related to advanced technologies, and their relevance in their discipline. Faculty will be able to (1) learn from colleagues about aspects of advanced technologies and their potential impacts, and (2) develop a learning activity for students about the relationship between humans and intelligent machines.

Funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities, this seminar grows from work done by faculty who participated in the two-year Technology, Self and Society Seminar. Offered in 2014-15 and 2015-16, TSS was targeted for faculty teaching LIB 200 or cluster courses. In Fall 2016, this semester-long seminar will be open to faculty from any discipline teaching any level of course. Faculty colleagues (from the prior TSS seminar) acting as “teachers” represent a range of disciplines, and will also discuss how their class and activities align with core competencies: these “teachers” will be presenting classwork from lower-level and upper-level courses alike. Faculty participants will prepare as “students,” completing assigned readings before the meeting and coming prepared to fully participate in session activities.

When developing their learning activities for students, seminar members will utilize the rubrics developed for LaGuardia’s Core Competencies and Abilities to guide their assignment design. Learning activities developed by faculty will become part of the CUNY Open Education Resources bank. Participants in the seminar will be accumulating a range of activities and resources that can be used in a variety of interdisciplinary settings, from introductory classes to more advanced study.

Below, you’ll find a provisional list with some introductory readings that I’ve cobbled together; it’s not comprehensive, but more of a starting point. I wrote this thinking about how faculty might use these readings in the classroom. When possible, I drew on excerpts from anthologies (again – optimizing for course packets): which means that I’ve included, for instance, an anthologized excerpt from Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence:  Paths, Dangers, Strategies in Science Fiction & Philosophy: From Time Travel to Superintelligence , rather than Bostrom’s entire book (but you should read the whole book, because it’s important y’all). Another example: I’ve also starred a quick overview on AI/robots from David Seed’s Science Fiction: A Very Short Introduction, which would provide someone new to the topic with a little background information. As my interests are mainly around AI in sci-fi, you’ll see that’s the driving force here – though I’ve tried to include other possible directions and background texts around posthumanism and transhumanism as well. There’s quite a bit of overlap from my prior section of LIB 200 around this theme, and the Technology, Self, & Society readings of course. I haven’t gotten around to thinking about possible readings from The Nonhuman Turn  (U Minnesota Press, 2015) yet, though I might come back and include something from there. The starred readings (and the one video clip) are items I plan on using with my LIB 200: Humanism, Science, and Technology class in the future; thus, these are also readings that I think are kind of “essential” for a student thinking about future humans and intelligent machines. This is also in part a request for suggestions, so have at it.



Header image:”Cyborg Manual,” runran. Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0.

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