Politics and Technology: Capitalism, democracy and disruptive technology
Full course description
Technology is a major force in political and social reality, and is reshaping important areas of human activity. Technological innovations usually come with a series of bright promises – robots will reduce manual labor; medical innovations will help eliminate disease; the internet will democratize society and foster peace. But history teaches us that well-intentioned technological developments rarely do only what they set out to do, and that “disruption” always also involves socio-political upheaval. What happens to the distribution of wealth in a digitized society? What room is there for civil liberties in an age of ubiquitous surveillance? What are the political consequences of mass unemployment caused by automation? Is democracy drowning in the fake news proliferated on the digital infrastructures of Facebook and Google? These questions demand a critical questioning of the possible benefits and harms of technological developments. In this course we will study several cases of emerging technologies and their socio-political and ethical impacts. Drawing on policy and regulatory documents, industry reports, popular media and academic literature, we will discuss these as controversies, in the form of debates, and ask what is needed to embed these developments in society in the most desirable ways possible.
Upon completion of the course students are able to
- understand the role technologies can play in shaping political and social reality using approaches from philosophy of technology and Science and Technology Studies;
- identify, contrast and cluster arguments in contemporary debates on technology;
- position themselves in a debate by reproducing these arguments;
- critically reflect on implicit assumptions, promises and fears surrounding technological innovation;
Brynjolfsson, E. and McAfee, A. (2014). The second machine age: Work, progress, and prosperity in a time of brilliant technologies. N.Y & London: W.W. Norton & Company.
Dijk, J. van (2014). Datafication, dataism and dataveillance: Big data between scientific paradigm and ideology. Surveillance and Society, 12(2), 197-208.
Sharon, T. (2016). Self-tracking for health and the Quantified Self: Re-articulating autonomy, solidarity and authenticity in an age of personalized healthcare. Philosophy and Technology. DOI: 10.1007/s13347-016-0215-5.
Swierstra, T. (2015). Introduction to the ethics of new and emerging science and technology. In R. Nakatsu et al. (Eds.), Handbook of digital games and Entertainment Technologies. Singapore: Springer.