Ethics, Technology, and Violence

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This course is no longer being offered.

Course Description

This course is designed specifically for English Language Learners interested in further developing their English skills in a challenging college-level academic setting.

In this class, we will think critically and historically about issues of ethics and technology in politics. While we tend to associate technology with the modern and postmodern ages in which impressive gains in efficiency and automation have been obtained through the development of machines and computing, we will also how innovations in the use of political violence have been associated with even the earliest forms of science. Thus, an important aspect of our investigation is how projects of knowledge have been intertwined with the organizing and applying political violence. We will consider especially the linkages between governance, private industry, media, academia, and warmaking. To evaluate and understand how governments and their critics have evaluated the ethics of technologies of violence we will also study prominent approaches to ethics.

We will examine a number of case studies, both historical and contemporary, to investigate the following questions: How should we evaluate the development and use of technologies of violence? Do certain technologies facilitate violence and make it easier to kill? What roles do science, academia, industry and media play at the intersection of technology and war? Do activists also use technology with violent effects? Are there ethical perspectives that help us address the dilemmas of technology and violence? Have efforts to regulate the use of technology been successful? How should we define violence?

Case studies will include: ancient weaponry, bombing and airplanes (especially firebombing but also the use of precision bombs), atomic bombs, drones, cyborgs and cyborg warriors, cyberwar and hacking, 'hacktivism', guns and the New World, anthropology and colonialism, and the military-industrial-media-entertainment complex.

The course will feature a variety of activities including daily reading, group exercises, a course-length simulation, and mini-presentations on readings and related news topics.

Upon completing the course students will have:

1. Developed a critical framework for analyzing ethical issues in the development and use of technology that has violent applications.
2. Identified many of the dominant and alternative ethical narratives of twentieth and twenty-first century world politics that students will encounter as college students in a variety of fields in the social sciences, humanities, and physical sciences.
3. Acquire a sense of the ethical challenges for policymakers and individuals who make, interpret, and implement policies and actions that entail violence, including professionals in politics, diplomacy, law, computer science, engineering and weapons and defense.

Prerequisites: Students should have some familiarity with concepts from political science, international relations, or history. This course also welcomes but does not require some background in computer science.


Course Information

  • Course Code: CEPS0973
  • Length: 2 weeks

Program Information

Summer@Brown for English Language Learners

A select group of non-credit courses in the liberal arts and sciences supplemented with English language learning, two weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For University-bound English language learners completing grades 9-12 by June 2019.

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