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Ask Slashdot: What Essays and Short Stories Should Be In a Course On Futurism? 293

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-have-no-mouth-and-i-must-scream dept.
Ellen Spertus writes "I'll be teaching an interdisciplinary college course on how technology is changing the world and how students can influence that change. In addition to teaching the students how to create apps, I'd like for us to read and discuss short stories and essays about how the future (next 40 years) might play out. For example, we'll read excerpts from David Brin's Transparent Society and Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near. I'm also considering excerpts of Cory Doctorow's Homeland and Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age. What other suggestions do Slashdotters have?"
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Ask Slashdot: What Essays and Short Stories Should Be In a Course On Futurism?

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  • None of the above (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kamapuaa (555446) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @06:17AM (#46343789) Homepage

    Read biographies of people who actually changed the world, and discuss how they did it.

    Stop confusing science fiction or science fiction-styled essays with futurism.

  • Asimov (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @06:26AM (#46343843)

    The Foundation series is a great set of material where he deals with the difference between an individual's actions swaying the course of history, and the behaviours and trends of large groups over time (psychohistory).

    It links in neatly with the 3 laws, and if it's far too long then try some of his short stories.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @06:33AM (#46343877)

    I commented about that anonymousely a minute ago and I think Shalsdot ate my comment, so I'll go ahead and repeat myself:
    The thing you are describing isn't Futurism. Futurims isn't about "how technology is changing the world" and specifically not about " how [it] might play out". It's about the glorification of early 20th century technology and the way it affected the people at that time.

    What you are talking about is Futurology, NOT Futursim. Try not to confuse these, especially if you are teaching people who already know about that stuff. Trying to make the disambiguation early on can be intresting too, since most people tend to abusively use the word Futrism.

    Here, take this : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futurism
    and this : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futurology

  • by fantomas (94850) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @06:45AM (#46343931)

    Well if you're going to teach about Futurism [wikipedia.org] you should definitely include some critical consideration of the effect of industrialisation on European and North American countries, consider how art was affected by the experiences of artists in the First World War, and how it influenced the later art movements such as Art Deco, Surrealism, and Dada.

  • by fermion (181285) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @07:45AM (#46344195) Homepage Journal
    Reading biographies of individual people implies that individual people have individually changed the world. By and large that is not true. On can read a biography on Edison, but that does not tell you the complex story of how that technology actually came to pass and how it effected the world.

    Reading fiction and non-fiction that explores the possibilities or technology, and even the rejection of technology can lead to discussion on the various factors effected the adoption and exploration of technology. For instance Guns, Germs, and Steel puts forward many hypothesis on why some civilizations developed technology, some borrowed it, and some rejected it. It related to the distribution and adoption of technology today and in the future, and how those futurist who think technology is the answer can make it more widely available. On the fiction side, The Difference Engine imagines a world where we had computers in the victorian era. This can lead to a discussion on the differences between an idea, a manufacturing process, and an affordable mass manufacturing process. For instance, was the technology for manufacturing hundreds of identical gears present in the 1800's?

    One this I find interesting is that we know have simplified the process of programming computers to the point where an slightly above average kid with an average education can develop an App. This only took 50 years, two generations. This reflects something that we see repeatedly. The spread of technology does not depend on a special person making a technology, rather the development of a process that makes the technology available to greater number of people. For instance, the process to make a precision screw was incredible important to much of what we do today, even if many of the people who have used the screw do not understand what it does.

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