Learn Heptapod! Enroll in "Technology, Ethics, and Imagination"

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Applications are now being accepted for "Technology, Ethics, and Imagination" (PHIL 30330, LAW 73133). This course will focus on the work of Ted Chiang, NDIAS Artist in Residence during 2020-2021, and explore how contemporary science fiction shapes our understanding of technology and ethics. Chiang will join the class for several sessions to offer masterclasses on his work.

The three-credit class will be taught by Meghan Sullivan (Director of the NDIAS) and Mark McKenna (Director of the ND Technology Ethics Center) during Fall 2020. Applications are due by Wednesday, April 15, 2020 (see below for application instructions).

Questions may be directed to Meghan Sullivan ( or Mark McKenna (

Course Description

Science fiction has long been a vehicle for reflecting on the ethical and humanistic dimensions of technological advances. Fiction can offer ethical arguments for or against uses of technology. It can enable us to see threats, puzzles, and opportunities for moral progress that were previously unappreciated.  Fiction can help us uncover inconsistencies in our reasoning about what is technologically possible. And reflection on the possibilities technology offers can help us appreciate dimensions of our humanity that were previously obscure to us.  

In this course, we’ll consider how contemporary science fiction authors play these roles in our thinking about technology and ethics.  We’ll conduct a close study of writing from Ted Chiang, arguably one of the most important authors in this genre.  Chiang will join us for 2-3 class sessions to offer masterclasses on his process of engaging with these ethical questions as a speculative fiction writer.  We’ll study recent technological developments, philosophical theories, and policy debates that these stories engage with. And we’ll learn how to craft rigorous ethical arguments in three formats: philosophical analysis, policy brief, and narrative.

This is a three credit class, meeting Monday nights from 5:00-8:00pm, with some dinners (especially when Ted Chiang is in town) and films.  The course fulfills the second philosophy requirement and is open to majors/minors in Philosophy, English, Creative Writing, Computer Science, FTT, and STV, as well as graduate students in Philosophy and in the Law School. 

Enrollment in this course is by application. To apply, please submit to Kellye Mitros ( a statement (no longer than 500 words) describing your interest in the course and why you’d be a particularly interesting contributor. Your submission can be in the form of science fiction, but the intelligence must not be artificial.

Applications are due by Wednesday, April 15, 2020.

Questions may be directed to Meghan Sullivan ( or Mark McKenna (

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