Fordham, New York City's Jesuit University
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Fordham College at Lincoln Center

Department of Computer & Information Sciences


 Semester:  Spring, 2012
 Course Number:  CSLV 4660 L01
 Course Title:  Minds, Machines, & Society
 Instructor:  Dr. Robert K. Moniot
    Office LL 817-E, Phone (212) 636-6334
    Office hours: MW 10:30-11:15, TF 2:30-3:30
    Other office hours by appointment
 Class Hours:  MW 11:30-12:45PM, Room LL 502
 Required Text:  None: there will be required readings of selected articles and book chapters.

Course Outline: We will begin with an examination of the current status of computers, the science of computing, and information technology. We will then explore possible directions that this technology may take in the future, and what impact these developments may have on society. We will examine the depiction of technology by the media and the technology industry, and compare this with the present reality and realistic future possibilities. An important element of our discussion will be the questions of what it means to be intelligent, and whether human-like artificial intelligence is likely, feasible, or even possible.

The course will be conducted in a seminar mode, oriented primarily around class discussion. In the second half of the semester, each student is expected to give a short (20-minute) presentation on the topic of her or his final paper.

It will not be necessary for the student to have any specialized training in computer or information science. Most of the issues can be understood without any detailed knowledge of the workings of the underlying technology. In any case, the analysis of these issues from a moral perspective is not dependent on their technological basis.

This course fulfills the core requirement of a Senior Values Seminar. It is not applicable toward the major in Computer Science.

Protocol: Attendance is mandatory, and is graded, mainly on the extent to which students contribute to the discussion.

Grade will be based on class participation (15%), an in-class presentation (15%), several 2-3 page essays (25%), a final exam (20%), and a final research paper (25%). To pass the course each student must complete each of these components adequately. In particular, since attendance and participation are key elements of this class, each student must attend at least 2/3 of the class meetings, whether absences are excused or unexcused.

Late papers will be accepted, but with a penalty that increases with time. The essays will be based mainly on material discussed in class and on the assigned readings. The final paper must be based on research, and written in proper scholarly style, with references for all sources consulted. See the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers or similar work for guidelines on proper citation style. Academic integrity is very important to the mission of the university. Plagiarism or failure to properly cite sources will result in an F on the paper and may result in an F for the course.

If you believe that you have a disabling condition that may interfere with your ability to participate in the activities, coursework, or assessment of the object of this course, you may be entitled to accommodations. If so, please schedule an appointment to speak with me immediately or you may go to the Office of Disability Services (Room LL 207, x6282).

Schedule of Topics, Readings and Assignments:

W Jan 18:
What is a computer? Readings: Turing, Searle.
M Jan 23:
W Jan 25:
Turing test. Readings: Hofstadter. Essay 1 assigned: impressions of computers.
M Jan 30:
Popular images of computers. Readings: Weizenbaum, Turkle.
W Feb 1:
cont'd. Essay 1 due.
M Feb 6:
Visions of the future. Readings: Weiser, Gemperle et al, Healy & Picard.
W Feb 8:
cont'd. Readings: Gelernter. Essay 2 assigned: visions of the future.
M Feb 13:
W Feb 15:
Nanotechnology. Readings: Feynman, Joy, Drexler. Essay 2 due.
T Feb 21:
W Feb 22:
Cyborgs, transhumanism. Readings: Kurzweil, Franchi & Guezeldere. Essay 3 assigned: spiritual machines. Presentation proposal due.
M Feb 27:
W Feb 29:
Symbolic AI. Readings: Newell & Simon, Dreyfus & Dreyfus. Essay 3 due.
M Mar 5:
W Mar 7:
Computational AI. Readings: Brooks. Essay 4 assigned: future of AI.
M Mar 19:
W Mar 21:
cont'd. Essay 4 due.
M Mar 26:
Student presentations 1 & 2. Research paper proposal due.
W Mar 28:
Student presentations 3 & 4.
M Apr 2:
Student presentations 5 & 6.
W Apr 4:
Student presentations 7 & 8.
W Apr 11:
Student presentations 9 & 10.
M Apr 16:
Student presentations 11 & 12. Research paper first draft due.
W Apr 18:
Student presentations 13 & 14.
M Apr 23:
Student presentations 15 & 16.
W Apr 25:
Student presentations 17 & 18.
M Apr 30:
Student presentations 19 & 20.
W May 2:
Catch-up, discussion.
F May 4:
(first reading day) Research paper due.
M May 14:
Final exam, 9:30 AM (tentative date).
(Note that this schedule may need to be adjusted slightly as the course progresses. Any changes will be announced in class and posted on the Blackboard web site.)


All of the following readings will be available on the Blackboard class web site.

Brooks, Rodney A., Intelligence Without Representation. Artificial Intelligence Journal vol. 47 (1991), pp. 139–159.

Drexler, K. Eric., Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, Anchor Books (1986). Chapter 1.

Dreyfus, Hubert L. & Stuart E. Dreyfus, Making a mind versus modelling the brain: artificial intelligence back at a branch point. Daedalus vol. 117, no. 1 (Winter 1988), pp. 15-43.

Feynman, Richard P., Plenty of room at the bottom. Talk given at American Physical Society meeting at Caltech (1959).

Franchi, Stefano and Gueven Guezeldere, eds. Mechanical Bodies, Computational Minds, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA (2005). Sections 10-11 of the chapter "Machinations of the Mind."

Healey, Jennifer and Rosalind Picard, StartleCam: A Cybernetic Wearable Camera. Proceedings of the Second International Symposium on Wearable Computers, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 19-20 October 1998, pp. 42-49.

Hofstadter, Douglas R., A Coffeehouse Conversation on the Turing Test. Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern, Basic Books (1985).

Gelernter, David H., Mirror Worlds, Oxford University Press (1991). Chapter 2.

Gemperle, Francine, Nathan Ota and Dan Siewiorek, Design of a Wearable Tactile Display. Proceedings of the Fifth International Symposium on Wearable Computers, Zurich, Switzerland, Oct. 2001.

Joy, Bill, Why the future doesn't need us. Wired (April 2000).

Kurzweil, Ray, The Age of Spiritual Machines, Penguin, New York (1999). Excerpts from chapters 5-6, and all of chapter 9.

Newell, Allen & Herbert A. Simon, Computer Science as Empirical Inquiry: Symbols and Search. Communications of the ACM vol. 19, no. 3 (March 1976), pp. 113-126.

Searle, John R., Minds, brains and programs. Behavioral and Brain Sciences vol. 3, pp. 417-424 (1980).

Turing, Alan, Computing machinery and intelligence. Mind vol. 59, pp. 433-460 (1950).

Turkle, Sherry, The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit, Simon and Schuster, New York (1985). Chapter 1.

Weiser, Mark, The Computer for the 21st Century. Scientific American, vol. 265, no. 3 (September, 1991), pp. 94-104.

Weizenbaum, Joseph, Computer Power and Human Reason, W.H. Freeman, New York (1975). Chapter 6 and end-notes.

Robert Moniot 2012-01-13