Fall 2014 -
Undergraduate Course Description
Discipline and Number
7:00 PM - 9:45 PM
|Cyborgs & Robots
Description of Course:
This course explores the relationship between humans and technology. We will examine how mankind envisions robots and their place within human society. In particular we will look to representations of humanoid machines, as well as human enhancement that blurs the lines among human, machine, and cyborg. We will read and discuss novels, short stories, and drama; and we will view and discuss films and video.
• What makes us human? At what point does a technologically augmented person become something other than human? Are we already cyborgs or is there some future threshold that will constitute our transformation?
• Can humans and machines have meaningful relationships? Can humans and machines be partners? Lovers?
• How does gender figure in the depiction of android robots? Are there clichés that writers revert to when writing about human-robot relationships? What do such clichés tell us about society?
• What do we fear about the proliferation of robots and androids? Have these fears changed over time?
• How do robots or androids stand in for other entities in stories of political criticism? For example, do robots represent the power of the law or government when authors want to make a particularly pointed critique?
• How do writers use fictional robots to tell us about how we treat people in service roles? Do robots represent humans that we
• What models of human enhancement do we imagine for our own future? Will enhancement alienate us from human experience or social relations?
This course is part of the Medical and Scientific Humanities minor.
Texts May Include:
“A Wife Manufactured to Order,” Alice Fuller. (1895)
R.U.R., Karel Čapek. (1920)
“Helen O’Loy,” Lester del Rey (1938)
“Robbie,” Isaac Asimov (1939)
With Folded Hands, Jack Williamson. (1947)
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick. (1968)
Neuromancer, William Gibson (1983)
Beggars in Spain, Nancy Kress (1993)
“Kiss Me Twice,” Mary Robinette Kowal (2011)
“The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi,” Pat Cardigan. (2012)
Humanity’s End: Why We Should Reject Radical Enhancement, Nicholas Agar. (2010)
Film and Video May Include:
The Stepford Wives (1975)
Black Mirror: “The Entire History of You.” Season 1, episode 3. (2011)
Black Mirror: “Be Right Back.” Season 2, episode 1. (2013)
Robot and Frank. (2012)
Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:
Assignments will likely include:
Reading quizzes (unannounced)
Discussion questions and brief answers to those questions submitted by students
Final Paper or Creative Project