603-HSD-VA, Humanity's Children
A recent poll of experts predicts that high-level machine intelligence equal or superior to that of humans will likely emerge near the middle of this century. Self-improving synthetic life forms could attain superintelligence soon afterwards, a scenario in which the smartest human on earth would be to these “Supers” as the world’s smartest hamster currently is to us. In this scenario, our fate will rest in the hands of these “children,” whose motives will almost certainly lie beyond our comprehension. Whether they reshape the world into a utopia or an apocalypse may well depend on what kind of parents we turn out to be. The responsibilities and possible consequences that accompany the creation of sentient life forms raise a number of fascinating and challenging questions, many of which we’ve wrestled with for centuries. Never before have these questions been more pertinent. In this course, through the study of literary fiction, films, and theory, we’ll examine and discuss what kind of legacy we might impart to humanity’s children.