Syllabus for IDS   252    Society, Ethics, and Technology
Liberal Learning Program, The College of New Jersey

Ralph Edelbach, Associate Professor & Coordinator
Armstrong Hall 130   ( Date:  08/23/2005 )


This course is designed to provide students with a framework for understanding ways in which human societies transform themselves through technological innovation and for assessing the social and ethical issues associated with technological change. New technologies extend human powers and enlarge social options, but also often give rise to unwanted social and environmental consequences and lead to troubling ethical problems. These general themes will be developed by means of lectures, associated course readings, classroom activities, and exercises in seminar sections during which students will explore past and present developments in various fields of technology and discuss the ethical and social issues they raise.

Course Description

By considering seven major themes during this course, students will gain an understanding of the major impact technological change has had on human life. They will also have opportunities conduct an in-depth investigation into an area of personal interest relating to one of these topics. Because of the ethical implications of many decisions involving technology, ethical concepts will be reviewed and those principles utilized in resolving ethical dilemmas and completing an ethical case analysis.

Prerequisites None

Learning Goals

This course is primarily focused on the Worldviews and Ways of Knowing goal and outcomes of the Liberal Learning Program. Class activities and assignments are selected in order to help students “think critically about what it means to be human, and to explore and interpret the human place in the universe.” Students should be able to think critically about how “human beings are able to gain knowledge beyond the limits of their own personal experiences as they develop an understanding of the nature and role of technology and its impact on the environment and society.”  Because many decisions involving technological issues have a major impact on human lives, students should be able to “formulate a point of view on the intersection of science, religion, politics, and other forms of culture,” as well as to develop the ability to make informed judgments concerning ethical values.  In order to achieve these goals, this course is structured as described below.


     Major Course Themes - Issues related to each of the major topics below will be covered.
     1.       Historical Perspectives of Technology
        2.       Social Perspectives of Technology
     3.       Ethical Perspectives of Technology
        4.       Economics, Globalization and Human Rights
     5.       Information Systems Technology
     6.       Biomedical Technology
     7.       Population and The Environment

   Class Schedule  -   Supplemental readings to be assigned by instructor


1 & 2   Introduction to course -
    History of Technology / Creativity & Problem solving
Text Readings: 
            Introduction, Winston                                                                    1 – 20
            The Great Leap Forward, Diamond                                             22 - 33
           The Pinball Effect, Burke                                                                 33 - 42
           Industrial Society and Technological Systems, Cowan             54 - 71

  3 & 4    Sociological Aspects of Technology
Introduction of Design / Invention / Discovery Assignment
Text Readings: 
            Women and the Assessment of  Technology, Bush                      71  -  85
           Artifacts/Ideas and Political Culture,  Winner                            94 – 100
            Democratic Rationalization, Feenberg                                          100 - 114

  5 & 6     Ethics and Technology
Text Readings: 
            Technology and Responsibility: Reflections on the New Task of
, Jonas                                                     115 - 126
            Technology and Social Justice, Dyson           126 - 136
            Technological Subversion, Strong                        149 - 161

  7 & 8    Mid-Term Exam - covering the first six weeks of the course
Economics, Globalization and Human Rights
Text Readings: 
            International Economics
, Sachs                       162 - 169
            The One Best Way, Postrel                                  169 - 180
            Innovating Our Way to the Next Industrial Revolution Senge and Carstedt                             180 - 193
            Globalization and Its Impact on the Full Enjoyment All Human Rights, United Nations       193 - 204

  9 & 10   Computers and Information Technology
     Introduction of Ethical Case Analysis
Text Readings: 
            Computers and Privacy, Edgar                          205 – 222
            Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us, Joy              231 - 248
            Promise and Peril, Kurzweil                               248 - 253

11 & 12    Biomedical Technology
Text Readings: 
           Genetic Encores: The Ethics of Human
                     Cloning, Wachbroit                                    253 – 259
            Reproductive Technology, Wajcman                259 - 275
            Preventing a Brave New World, Kass              275 – 287
            Genetic Engineering and the Concept of the Normal, Sagoff     287 - 297

13 & 14   Population and the Environment
Text Readings: 
            The Tragedy of the Commons, Hardin                                                297 – 306
            Stronger Evidence of Human Influence on Climate, Trenbeth      306 - 316
            A New Economy for a New Century, Brown and Flavin                  316 - 323

     15    Final Exam

Student Assessment

Grades will be based on a student's achievement on assignments, tests, quizzes and as well as class participation.  
Complete details relevant to each assignment will be provided by the instructor and reviewed in class.

1.       Assignments not submitted by the due date will have their grades reduced proportional to when they are submitted, unless prior arrangements have been made with the instructor.

2.        Students will be provided with feedback by the instructor as they work on an assignment. Comments suggesting improvements will be made on all submitted work. Students will have an opportunity to incorporate these suggestions into their final submissions.

3.       Student grades may be reviewed with the instructor upon request.


Learning Activities see class schedule established by individual instructors for due dates

           Complete details of each assignment will be provided by the instructor.

1.      Design/Invention/Discovery Assignment -  This will be a group assignment on a topic
related to one of the course themes. Drafts of the paper and other related materials will
be submitted and returned on the established schedule. A 10-minute group presentation
of the project will be presented to the class..........
( 20 %)

2.      Ethical Case Analysis – This is a seven page paper APA Style involving considering
viable options related to making an ethical decision involving some technological aspect
A draft of the paper will be submitted and returned with comments prior to the final
paper being submitted
......................................... ( 20 %)

3.      Participation / Reading quizzes............................... ( 20 %)

4.      Midterm Exam..................................................... ( 20 %)

5.   Final Exam............................................................( 20 % )

Required Texts

Winston, M, and Edelbach, R, (2005). Society, Ethics, and Technology - Third Edition. San Francisco: Thompson/Wadsworth.


Brown, L., et. al. (1998). State of the World 1998: A Worldwatch Institute Report on Progress Toward a Sustainable Society, New York: Norton.

Burke, J., and Ornstein, R. (1997). The Axmaker's Gift: Technology's Capture and Control of Our Minds and Culture. New York: Putnam Group.

Dawkins, R. (1990). The Selfish Gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

DeGraff, J., Wann, D., Naylor, T. (2001). Affluenza. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Diamond, J. (1998). Guns, Germs and Steel. New York: Random House.

Chomsky, N. (1996). World Orders Old and New. New York: Columbia University Press.

Edgar, S. (1997). Morals and Machines: Perspectives in Computer Ethics. New York: Jones and Bartlett

Ellul, J. (1964). The Technological Society. J. Wilkenson trans. New York: Knopf

Jonas, H. (1983). The Imperative of Responsibility: In Search of an Ethics for the Technological Age. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Noble, D. (1997). Forces of Production: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Invention. New York: Kopf

Page, G. (1999). Inside the Animal Mind. New York: Random House.

Petrovski, H. (1996). Invention by Design: How Engineers Get from Thought to Thing. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Rifkin, J. (1995). The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era. New York: Putnam.

Sclove, R. (1995). Democracy and Technology. New York: Guilford Press.

Teich, A. (1993). Technology and the Future. New York: St. Martin’s Press

Thurow, L. (1996). The Future of Capitalism: How Today's Economic Forces Shape Tomorrow's World. New York: William Morrow

Winston, M, and Edelbach, R, (2005). Society, Ethics, and Technology - Third  Edition. San Francisco: Thompson/Wadsworth.