The Future of Information Technology

Fall 1999  Course # STSS-4961  Tues  6:30 - 9:50, Jonsson Engineering Center rm 3210. Instructor: Ron Eglash. Course webpage:



This course will examine the future of information technology, including its social and cultural ramifications. While advances in communication, computation and control technologies have dramatically transformed many aspects of society, impoverished living conditions and diminished social power still exists for many individuals and communities. How might information technology be deployed in ways that address these problems?


To contact instructor:

Office Hours: Thurs 12:00-2:00 and by appointment, 5114 Sage. Email:, phone: 276-2048. Course webpage:



Evaluation will be based on the two exams (30% each), the research project (30%), and class participation (10%). You are required to bring the reading to class so that we can discuss the text in detail.


The research project:

Each student will have an individual research project in one of 7 groups. Each group will give a “state of the art” presentation during the semester, and a “futures” presentation at the end of the semester. The groups are: (1) Smart objects/nanotechnology, (2) Economics, (3) Communication/privacy, (4) VR/MUDs, (5) Artificial Intelligence, (6) Artificial Life, (7) Cyborg Societies.



Kevin Kelly. Out of control : the new biology of machines, social systems and the

economic world. Reading, Mass. : Addison-Wesley, 1995.


Course Schedule:


Part I: Introduction –control, chaos, and complexity

Jan 11: lecture on STS, IT and the future. Film clips. Lecture: modern to postmodern in IT and youth subculture.


Jan 18. reading: Kelly ch 1-2. lecture on biological determinism. “State-of-the-Art” group signups. Film: GATTACA.


Jan 25 reading: Kelly ch 3-4. lecture on labor in postmodernity. Film “Out of Control”


Feb 1 reading: Kelly ch 5-6. lecture on chaos theory. Film “Chaos”


Feb 8 reading: Kelly ch 7-8. lecture on systems theory. Film on global warming.


Part II: IT in society at large

Feb 15 reading: Kelly ch 9-10. “State of the Art” presentation from Smart objects/nanotech group. Film clips from Star Trek.


Feb 22 no class (RPI follows Monday schedule)


Feb 29 First Midterm exam.  Lecture on AfroFuturism. Film clips: “Solo,” “Brother from Another Planet.”


Mar 7 Kelly ch 11-12. “State of the Art” presentations from Economics and Communication/privacy groups.


Mar 14 no class – spring recess


Part III: Autonomous IT

Mar 21 reading: Kelly ch 13-14. “State of the Art” presentation from VR group. Film: “Johnny Mnemonic.”


Mar 28 reading: Kelly ch 15-16. “State of the Art” presentation from AI group. Film “Bladerunner.”


April 4 reading: Kelly ch 17-18. “State of the Art” presentation from AL group. Film clips from Karl Sims.


April 11 reading Kelly ch 22-23. “State of the Art” presentation from Cyborg group.

Film “Alien Resurrection.”


Part IV: Futures

April 18 Second Midterm. Student “futures” presentations.


April 25 Student “futures” presentations.