Cosmology, Consciousness, and Computation

:::UPDATE::: FOR A MORE RECENT VERSION OF THE SYLLABUS SEE HERE
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In the Spring semester I hope to be teaching a course at LaGuardia called ‘science, humanism and technology’ (the Liberal Arts capstone course). The idea of the course is to explore the ways in which science and technology can hinder and help human civilization. I have been thinking that it would be cool to have the class focus on physics, philosophy of mind and computation. We would start with a conceptual overview of physics/philosophy of physics (including cosmology). This would include a brief introduction to the history of physics, going to Newton, the basics of relativity theory, quantuun mechanics and issues surrounding string theory. We could then look at the debate in cosmology about the origin of the universe and cosmological arguments for the existence of God. With that as background we would then go into the debate about the metaphysics of consciousness and other issues in the philosophy of mind. That would naturally lead us to a discussion about the nature of computation and the debate about artificial intelligence and consciousness. From there we could talk about issues in transhumanism, the simulation argument, and the Singularity. Of course I have to work out the details and weekly schedule, but this is just a rough idea of what I am thinking about doing.

I want the course material to be accessible (this is for undergraduates) and mainly online (there will be a couple of books I will require but I haven’t decided yet). I have started to compile a list of them, below, but I am wondering what anyone else might think would be useful for a course like this. I have until March (our semesters start late) so any suggestions would be great!

I. Physics

II. Cosmology

III. Philosophy of Mind

IV. Transhumanism

V. Computation

VI. Simulation Argument

VII. The Singularity

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3 thoughts on “Cosmology, Consciousness, and Computation

  1. A fully-rounded view of “ways in which science and technology can hinder and help human civilization” should include some anti-civ voices. Derrick Jensen and John Zerzan are both recommended along these lines.

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