I want to teach a seminar in ESG next semester, but all of my ideas require a fair amount of preparation, and I like them all too much to decide between them. So I want to hear your reactions: below are descriptions of the classes I'm trying to decide between. What sounds interesting to you, and are there any variations or related topics that you'd want in the classes?
FYI, non-MIT people are always welcome at my seminars and activities. I may also do parts of these as activities during January, when MIT becomes a seething mass of zany seminars, projects, and gatherings.
The Coming Years: An Exploration of the Future
In this seminar, we will explore what the future might hold. We will draw upon anthropology, history, human system dynamics, fiction, and current movements to illuminate our speculations. We will look at changes science and technology, culture and lifestyles, and dominant paradigms and societies. The scope of the class will range from the effects of the internet over the next decade, to the worldwide political changes we can expect in the next century, to the feats of engineering that might emerge in the coming millennium. Class assignments will include reading and writing of non-fiction and fiction, scenario games, simulations, and creative design.
Construct Your Own Society
The foundations of society-- the social structures and roles prescribed, the methods of communicating, recording, and discovering knowledge, the world view, self-conception, and religious aspects, the calendar, rituals, and institutions-- are not immutable human facts. They are creations (and re-creations and revisions) formed from endless interconnected choices which have vastly significant effects on the experience of life and how societies fare in response to different challenges. In this seminar, we will try our hand at constructing new societies, the way you would engineer any other complex system: by understanding the building blocks, their interconnections, and the effects of these different choices.
Sex and Religion
This class will explore the intricacies of religion and sexuality, and the relationships between them. Both of these realms of strong visceral experience help form the basis of identity and relationships, and lie at the core of what motivates us. We will try to understand these cornerstones of the human experience are, within each other's context. Each week will focus on a different common question of the emotions, purpose, the will, humanity, experience, or ethics. Class will be discussion-driven, with readings from the philosophy of sex, love, religion, and experience. The goal is a deeper understanding of both the personal and societal facets of sexuality and religion, and our personal relation to them.
The Science of Social Interaction
The world of human interactions is bottomlessly complex and mind-reelingly dynamic. More so than in any other field, the first-order approximation tells us almost nothing about the real world-- but new models, methods, and experiments may be on the verge of a breakthrough in how we understand how we ourselves in the company of others. Some of the questions we will ask include: What is attraction? What factors determine the social dynamic of a group? How does manipulation work? How is the psyche structured for social interactions? What are the foundations of personality? What underlies our sexualities? Is any kind of communication reliable? And how can these models be used to handle social interaction more adeptly and ethically? We will study and experiment with models from the past 50 years as well as create some of our own.