The History of the Future, the Future of the Past (and Related Problems of the Present)
One Section Available to Choose From:
|Course Dates||Weeks||Meeting Times||Status||Instructor(s)||CRN|
|July 15, 2013 - August 02, 2013||3||M-F 12:45-3:35P||Open||Eoin Ryan, Julia Timpe||10517|
Did you know that StarTrek invented both the cell-phone and the iPad? Google's self-driving car is on the road, but what about a flying car, like the one depicted in the Jetsons? Have you ever considered what the world would look like today if Nazi Germany had won World War II or if John F. Kennedy had never been shot?
Questions like these will be addressed in this class, which centers around the ways the future looked like in the past. It will be co-taught by a philosopher and an historian, and it will analyze scientific, political and philosophical visions of the future as they emerged in the past and changed over time. In other words, we will look at how people dreamed of the future, and why, and we will ask which of those dreams came true, and why. Some of those dreams, like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, have been nightmares, others have been utopias. We will investigate how such dreams changed their futures and our present. Then we will ask what sort of dreams we can have today for our future.
We will look at science fiction in particular because that is where some of the wildest and strangest dreams have been created, some of the most inspiring and some of the most terrifying. We will explore how people in the past envisioned how the next generations would live, eat, travel, work, construct society, or even think. Our sources include literature, cinema, counterfactual history, and ancient philosophical and biblical texts as well as futurist predictions. Topics to be discussed include imagined technologies and architectures, utopian communities and dystopian visions. We'll read and watch science fiction, including classics such as Frankenstein, cult authors like Philip K. Dick, and film and television like Star Trek and Dr. Who, exploring science fiction themes like time travel, or alien anthropology " asking how these motifs can help us to understand what we mean by historical change, and what it is to be human. We’ll also look at philosophers and political theorists such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau or Jeremy Bentham, and at utopianists and dystopianists like Karl Marx and George Orwell, asking what it means to envision worlds of the future, and where we should imagine human individuals within our possible futures.
You will write short papers, at least one them a history paper, and one a philosophy paper during this course. But for the final assignment we will ask you to build a world. You will build your world in the way that best suits you, maybe an academic essay, or perhaps a short story, an invented history, a schema for a science fictional universe, a computer program, or an index for a book that has never existed. You will design your world so that it is interesting, rich in detail, but above all helps you understand something from the real world or explore a concept. Your exemplars will be the world builders of our course " historians, futurists, dreamers, philosophers, and science fiction writers. Your presentation will be rigorous and critical, and convincing. But your world will be your own.