This syllabus is to be used as a guideline only. The information provided is a summary of topics to be covered in the class.
Information contained in this document such as assignments, grading scales, due dates, office hours, required books and materials may be from
a previous semester and are subject to change. Please refer to your instructor for the most recent version of the syllabus.
Updated July 2018
THE MOVIEGOER’S GUIDE
TO THE FUTURE
Tuesday 4:30 — 7:15 PM, Location TBC
Instructor: Andrew Maynard TA: TBC
Maynard Office Hours: Wednesdays, 10:00 AM — 12:00 PM, Interdisciplinary B, room B366D
The Moviegoer’s Guide to The Future uses twelve kick-ass science fiction movies to explore emerging
trends in science and technology, and approaches to conducting scientific research and developing
new technologies in ways that improve and enrich lives, while avoiding potentially harmful
consequences to individuals, society, and the environment.
Through movies like Jurassic Park, Ghost in the Shell (the original Anime version, of course) and
Transcendence, the course explores technologies from genetic engineering and “de-extinction”, to
human enhancement, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence. It also looks at the human side of
technology innovation, from the ethics of cloning in movies like Never Let Me Go, and predictive justice
in Minority Report, to the dangers of blind entrepreneurial ambition in movies like Ex Machina. And it
addresses some of the really big issues in science and society we’re facing today, like climate change
(with The Day After Tomorrow), and science and belief (through Carl Sagan’s Contact).
Through these and other movies, the course dives into the increasing complex relationship between
science, technology and society, and begins to unpack how, through understanding this relationship
better, we can help build a better, more responsible science and technology-based future.
MOVIES WE’LL BE WATCHING
Jurassic Park (1993) • Minority Report (2002) • Never Let Me Go (2010) • Limitless (2011) • Elysium
(2013) • Ghost in the Shell (1995) • Ex Machina (2014) • Transcendence (2014) • The Man in the
White Suit (1951) • Inferno (2016) • The Day After Tomorrow (2004) • Contact (1997)
Andrew Maynard (2018) Films from the Future: The Technology and Morality of Sci-Fi Movies (Mango
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WHAT YOU’LL LEARN IN
KEY IDEAS AND CONCEPTS
We cover a lot of ideas and concepts in this class, including:
The process and nature of scientific discovery and technology innovation.
Current trends in emerging and converging science and technology.
The complex relationships between science, technology, and society.
Socially responsible and responsive innovation.
The ethics of research and innovation.
Social justice, equity, rights, and privilege.
Existential risk and technology innovation.
Power, influence, and innovation.
The nature of science and belief.
What it means to be human.
Following the class, you’ll be able to:
• Use active viewing skills to gain insights on real-world science and technology-related challenges
and opportunities from movies.
• Discuss how science fiction movies can provide insights into the potential benefit and risks of new
and emerging technologies.
• Discuss a number of emerging trends in science and technology and the opportunities and
challenges they present, including the underlying scientific and social principles; including genetic
engineering, cloning, human enhancement, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, synthetic biology
• Describe the reciprocal relationship between science and society, and explain why inclusive and
transdisciplinary approaches are needed for successful and responsible technology innovation,
together with how this might occur.
• Formulate, communicate, and defend well-informed views of your own on the development of
beneficial and socially responsive and responsible science and technology.
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You’ll be using digital portfolios throughout this class to capture your thoughts and ideas, and engage
with others on their thinking around the issues we will be exploring. Please make sure you set your
class digital portfolio up at the beginning of the course by adding information on yourself and your
aspirations for the course.
A TYPICAL WEEK
Weekly reading. Before each class, you’ll be required to read a chapter from Films from the Future
that sets the scene for the week. This will introduce the movie you’ll be watching (on most weeks),
provide a background to key areas of science and technology touched on in the movie, and explore
some of the key themes around science, technology and society that the movie raises.
Pre-class reflections. Before each class, and after reading the week’s chapter, you’ll be required to
describe three ideas or topics you’ll be focusing on while watching the week’s movie — you’ll post
these on your Digital Portfolio. These should draw from the week’s reading, the course learning
objectives, and your own interests.
In-class movies. We’ll be engaging in “active watching” (see below) where you’ll be actively looking
for how the movie provides insights into the concepts, ideas and issues you identified in your prereflection. We’ll have a short introduction to the movie at the start of the class, and at the end of each
movie we’ll discuss in groups and as a class the insights we can take away from it.
Post-class reflections. Following each movie, you’ll be asked to post a short reflection on your
Digital Portfolio. Here, you’ll be required to write about new ideas or insights that stood out for you from
the movie, the discussions, and the reading. Your reflection should explicitly relate to the the
course learning objectives where possible.
Toward the end of the course, you will be asked to use your pre- and post-reflections as the basis of a
narrative (also posted on your digital portfolio) that illustrates how you have met the course learning
objectives. You will also be required to complete an assignment on a specific area of technology
innovation, which will draw on the course content.
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Apart from the final course assignment and self-assessment, your progress (and your grade) in this
class will be based on weekly tasks. For these to be graded, they must be submitted on time.
Each week, you’ll be required to post a pre-class reflection on your Digital Portfolio. This should be
based on the reading for the week, the movie we will be watching, your own personal interests and
experience, and the course key ideas and concepts, and learning objectives. Your pre-class reflection
should briefly describe three ideas or topics that you will be focusing on while watching the movie.
These should be posted before class, and should be used to guide your active watching of the
movie, your participation in class discussion, and your post-class reflection. You could include
suﬃcient detail to guide your active viewing.
Only pre-class reflections posted before the class will be graded. They will be graded on the
extent to which the ideas or topics you list reflect the movie to be watched, the course ideas,
concepts and learning objectives, and your own ideas and interests. Points will be deducted for overly
brief pre-class reflections.
Part of your grade will depend on you attending class, and actively watching the movie and
participating in class discussions. If you need to miss a class, please ask permission before the day
of the class (unless it’s an emergency). If you miss class without permission, your class participation
grade will suﬀer.
You are strongly encouraged to bring your own perspectives and interests to the class discussions.
For instance, if you have a particular interest in how music, video shooting approach and direction
enhance or extend a movie’s narrative around science, technology and society, you should feel free to
draw on these.
Each week, you’ll be required to post a short reflection (typically 200 — 300 words) on three insights
or ideas that particularly stood out for you, based on the movie, the week’s reading, class
discussions, and your own thinking. These should reflect specific concepts, ideas, and learning
objects from the class where possible. Your reflection should ideally build on your pre-reflection,
although it doesn’t have to be limited to the ideas and topics you list there. It should also draw on your
own thoughts and experiences, as well as on previous movies covered in the class. It may also draw
on other readings and resources as appropriate.
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You will be graded on posting your reflection on time, and on the extent to which its content reflects
the movie, the course ideas, concepts and learning objectives, and your own ideas and interests.
Post-class reflections are due midnight the Friday after class. Only post-reflections posted on
time will be graded.
ESSAY ON SOCIALLY BENEFICIAL AND RESPONSIBLE TECHNOLOGY
Toward the end of the semester, you will be required to write and post open your Digital Portfolio a
short essay (~750 words) inspired by one of the six prompts listed below. This should draw on
material covered through the course and in the course readings. It should also utilize the course
bibliography, which consists of websites, articles, papers, and books referenced in Films from the
Your essay should communicate and defend well-informed views of your own on the development of
beneficial and socially responsive and responsible science and technology within a specific area. It
may be written in an informal style. However, you are expected to produce an essay that has a clear
and focused narrative, that engages and informed the reader, and that acknowledges and references
sources appropriately. You should base your arguments on evidence; and you should distinguish
clearly between fact, assumption, and opinion.
You are strongly encouraged to start developing your ideas for the essay early in the course.
Select just one of the following six prompts:
1. Scientists are planning to “grow” the first fully functioning human in a laboratory, without natural
parents, within 20 years. What are the technologies they hope to use to achieve this, how plausible
are they, and what are some of the biggest scientific, technological and social barriers they face? Is
this a technology that we should be pursuing as a society, and if so, how do we ensure that it is
2. New breakthroughs in genetic engineering are increasingly enabling scientists and entrepreneurs to
design new organisms, and even alter the genetic makeup of existing ones. What are some of the
most startling technological breakthroughs here, where does the divide lie between what is
plausible, and what is fantastical, how might some of these capabilities change our lives over the
next 30 years, and what should we be doing now to ensure these emerging technologies are
developed and used responsibly?
3. Artificial intelligence research is leading to rapid advances in what AI systems are capable of, to the
extent that some scientists and technologists are concerned that we are potentially creating AI
technologies that present new and challenging risks. What are the realistic promises and limitations
of current AI research, how are advanced AI and robotics likely to impact our lives over the next 20
years, what are some of the biggest potential benefits and risks, and how can we ensure that the
benefits far outweigh the risks?
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4. A growing number of organizations are investing in converging technologies, and what is being
dubbed the “fourth industrial revolution”. To what extent is “convergence” between diﬀerent domains
of science and technology a driving force behind increasingly powerful technologies, and to what
extent is it merely hype? How might convergence between diﬀerent capabilities lead to novel
technologies over the next 20 - 30 years; what are some of the social, political and technological
challenges to ensuring the benefits far outweigh the risks; and what are some ways in which they
might be overcome?
5. For the first time in human history, we are getting close as a species to being able to intentionally
alter and redesign the environment and the ecosystems we live in and are a part of. What are some
of the emerging technologies that are important here; what are some of the social, ethical and moral
issues they raise; and how might we begin to navigate toward a future where these technologies are
used in socially responsible ways?
6. Emerging science and technology are leading to unprecedented breakthroughs in how we no only
prevent and cure illness, but how we might enhance human capabilities. What are some of the
more realistic breakthroughs that promise to protect and improve human capabilities, what are some
of the more pressing social and ethical issues these raise, and how can we help ensure new
scientific and technological advances benefit as many people as possible, and are socially equitable
At the end of the class, you will be required to post a self-assessment on your Digital Portfolio that
demonstrates the extent to which you have made progress toward each of the class’ learning
objectives. This should be a brief summary of evidence that draws from from your pre- and postreflections, as well as any other sources (including personal experience, or achievements in other
classes). It should illustrate the degree to which you can demonstrate your learning and abilities against
each learning objective.
Your self-assessment can be informal, and it should be relatively short. Your aim should be to show
the course instructor what you have learned, so that they can rapidly assess your progress. Simply
citing a reflection as evidence of achieving a learning objective is insuﬃcient, as the course instructor
will not have the time to evaluate the reflection in question. Rather, you should include explicit evidence
of your achievement within your self-reflection by excerpting and explaining parts of your reflections, or
explicitly describing how presented evidence demonstrates your progress.
Your self-assessment will be graded based on the extent to which it illustrates progress toward
each of the course learning objectives. Evidence of substantial progress toward each objective will
be graded an A (or A+ if evidence of progress is exceptional). Limited progress, or limited evidence,
will result in a self-assessment grade of B or lower.
You are strongly advised to start collecting material and evidence for your self assessment early in the
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Self-assessments need to be posted on your digital portfolio no later than Monday April 29.
Course self-assessments posted after the deadline will not be graded, unless prior permission
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The following break-down will be used for class grades:
Participation in Class
Technology Innovation Essay
The course will be graded our of 100. There will be opportunities to gain up to a maximum of 5 points
in extra credit through the course.
Barrett students interested in adding an honors contract to the class should contact the instructor in
the first week of classes.
Failure due to Academic Dishonesty
[Note: in order to receive University Distribution requirement credit you must earn at least a “C.”]
A mark of "I" (incomplete) can be given by the instructor when you are otherwise doing acceptable
work but are unable to complete the course because of illness or other conditions beyond your
control. If you request an “I”, you are required to agree with the instructor what you need to do to
complete the course requirements. The arrangement must be recorded using the form at http://
students.asu.edu/forms/incomplete-grade-request. Students should be proactive and discuss this
with their instructor and TA before the end of the semester. Students who do not complete this form
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before the end of the semester cannot be given an incomplete and will be awarded a grade based on
the work they have completed.
If prior permission is sought (and granted) for submitting an assignment after the deadline, or if there
are circumstances outside your control for a delay, there will be no grade penalty. Otherwise,
assignments submitted after the set deadline will not be graded.
ASU has formal and informal channels to appeal a grade. If you wish to appeal any grading decisions,
please see: http://catalog.asu.edu/appeal
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Sometimes (let’s be honest, most times) it’s great to sit down and let a movie wash over you — to
experience it without thinking too much.
This is not how we’ll be watching movies in this class. But don’t worry — most of the movies we’ll
be watching together are even better when you’re concentrating on what they’re saying, and what
insights we might get from them.
We’ll be using an approach called active viewing. This involves paying close attention and taking notes
while watching the movies. But to help you, here are some simple guidelines:
Come prepared. Make sure you are primed before each movie, by having read the week’s chapter
and completed the pre-reflection.
Pay attention. Every aspect of a movie — from the music, to the atmosphere, to the subtle
expressions and body language of actors — can convey information, and spark new ideas. Pay
attention to everything!
Focus. Before each movie, you should have identified three ideas or topics in your pre-reflection.
Actively look for anything in the movie that is relevant to these, and that stimulates interesting and new
insights into them.
Be inspired. Embrace the serendipity of new and novel ideas and insights that you weren’t expecting.
Make connections. Look for common threads between diﬀerent movies. These might be similar
ideas, or diﬀerent perspectives on the same idea. But they could also be as simple as the same actor,
or producer, or composer, being associated with diﬀerent movies, or similar settings or locations, or
narrative arcs. Be imaginative in the connections you make!
Listen to more than the words. The soundscape (including the music) of a movie carries with it an
amazing amount of information, and can change how you perceive the movie!
Be critical — but don’t get lost in your critique. be critical of the movie — challenge it’s
assumptions, its plausibility, it’s use or misuse reality and fiction, it’s story telling. But don't let these
spoil your enjoyment — “bad” movies can still inspire great ideas!
Make notes. Don't assume you’ll remember any of those great ideas that struck you in the middle of
a scene, if you didn’t write them down.
Enjoy the movie. Active viewing should never mean boring viewing!
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JUST SO YOU KNOW …
Set up digital portfolio, and complete the “About Me” page.
Read Chapter 1 of Films from the Future.
Read Chapter 2 of Films from the Future, and post your pre-reflection on Jurassic Park
to your digital portfolio.
Post your p ...
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