Science and digital technologies have catalyzed often-overlooked revolutions in our day-to-day lives. From the development of the smart phone, to the atomic bomb, to antiretroviral drugs, the social landscape of the 20th and 21st centuries has been shaped by technological, medical, and scientific advancements. And, in the wake of these new breakthroughs, a host of philosophical, legal, and political questions have inevitably followed.
This course will introduce students to the multitude of academic frameworks—from sociology, to anthropology, to political science, to history and philosophy—used to unpack the ways in which science and technology work in tangent to morph society. Key questions include how scientific and technological advancements have shifted societal expectations around life and death, efficiency and authenticity, and agency and obedience. How should we define “progress” in a digital age? How do scientific advancements improve or disrupt an individual’s quality of life? And, do these scientific advancements come with a particular responsibility—and a particular power?
To tackle these challenging questions, students will hone their verbal reasoning skills through two formal debates grounded in advanced readings in the philosophy of science, the history of science, and medical bioethics. Legal court cases, public policy briefs, philosophical treaties, and the archival collections at Brown University’s John Hay Library will allow students to gain fluency in a diversity of source material. In addition to the development of an Action Plan, students will also work on both analytical and reflective writing samples.
By the end of the course, students will have developed an appreciation of the complex ways science and technology can make life both more fruitful and more precarious. In a world of technological consumers, students will instead be challenged to become technological thought leaders.
This course is part of the Leadership Institute, a two-week academic program that helps students cultivate the knowledge, skills, and attitudes associated with effective and socially responsible leadership. This unique program consists of three integrated elements: academic content, leadership development, and the Action Plan. Our students are thoughtful and compassionate youth who are interested in social issues and creating positive change. Enrollment in this program requires several hours of online engagement prior to campus arrival. This online participation can be completed at any time where internet access is available. Once on campus, participants can look forward to full days in a community of engaged and curious learners.
Prerequisites: This course will be of particular interest to students who wish to combine their interest in the sciences with the humanities. Those interested in bioethics, medicine, and law are particularly encouraged to participate. There are no pre-requisites, though given the nature of the material, the course is best suited to rising juniors and seniors.