This learning community, bringing together the perspectives of two historians, looks at various imaginings of the future--both utopian and dystopian visions. Perspectives on how thinkers of past generations envisions the future will lend context and opportunities for critical thinking about our efforts to envision a future in a complex, inter-dependent world.
Your Learning Community Coordinator will be Aaron Hock, a sophomore. The Learning Community Coordinator assists the LC faculty in the planning and implementation of out-of-classroom LC experiences, and works with FY students directly to further explore the LC theme.
Chasing the Flying Car: A History of the Future
Americans have developed clear ideas about what the future will look like. It will contain, in no particular order, pills as food, robot servants, flying cars, and the punk hairstyles of post-apocalyptic fashion. It will bring inevitable technological and economic progress and equally inevitable civilization-wide collapse. Over the last two centuries certain specific visions of the future have taken their place as recognizable parts of American culture, influencing everything from new technologies to fashion, to social policy. In this class we will track some of these visions through a variety of historical documents, including utopian plans, environmental projections, and works of science fiction. We will investigate how Americans have come to believe particular stories about the future, and how those beliefs have changed the world they inhabit today.
Professor: Emily Pawley, History
Time: 12:30 MWF
Utopias, Dystopias, and Engineering “Progress”
For thousands of years humans have been thinking about and proposing “fixes” for their troubled social relations. Our course will focus on some of the proposed solutions. Course materials will range from philosophical approaches like Plato’s Republic and Marx’s and Engel’s Communist Manifesto to real life implementation by Robert Owen and intentional communities today. Literature has also explored these themes in trying to describe utopias, like Thomas More’s Utopia, and to warn against the (un)intended consequences of trying to engineer society inorganically, as in Zamyatin’s We and Huxley’s Brave New World. Films, such as Blade Runner, provide a cinematic vision of such a future. These dreams of progress or perfection have not ceased. Scientists are daily manipulating the genomes of plants and animals in the hopes of improving our daily lives. But in their quest to engineer the perfect ear of corn, for example, are scientists creating a frightening world with such a lack of biodiversity that it threatens our actual extinction…a fate that dystopian writers like Zamyatin and Huxley could not even imagine?
Professor: Karl Qualls, History
Time: 12:30 MWF