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UMFK honors seminar to "Peek into Cybernetic Future"

December 10, 2004


"Trekies" at heart take note, the University of Maine at Fort Kent is offering a course designed for you in the coming semester.

"Peeking into our Cybernetic Future", is the title of an honors seminar class being taught by Tony Gauvin, assistant professor of e-commerce beginning in January.

"The course is an exploration with no boundaries," said Gauvin. "We will address the very thought-provoking question of what the future may bring."

According to the UMFK faculty member, the class will consider the new computer technologies that have brought changes with greater frequency and at times greater disturbance into our world.

"The impact of these new digital technologies resembles a revolution as economies, businesses, social interactions, governments, health care and even warfare are being digitally mutated into new cybernetic forms," said Gauvin.

Although the course will center on the impact of new, emerging and possible future technologies, it is not meant specifically for computer science or any other specific group of students.

"The course is multi-disciplinary and was never designed for computer or e-commerce students. My hope is to get students from all the UMFK majors into the course for an earnest discussion of where technology is taking us. All a student needs to survive the class is intellectual curiosity and the ability to articulate their thoughts," said Gauvin.

This latest UMFK Honors Seminar course offering is part of a series of classes centered on the theme "Environment, Technology, and People". According to UMFK Honors Program director Vladmir Suchan, it is a most appropriate topic.

"Professor Gauvin's 'Peeking into our Cybernetic Future' promises to be an exciting and challenging adventure into the realm of opinions, thoughts, and ideas about our technological future or perhaps several of our possible futures, one of which might combine a new form of electronic democracy with some version of brave Cyborgs. Of course, the future can never be a mere extension of our projections and prejudices, but if we don't learn from our past mistakes, we might be forced to repeat them with particular vengeance," said Suchan.

The class will begin with readings from four selected texts and discussion on the material.

Based on the readings, students will be asked to develop four position papers on the impact of technology, one each on society, economics, government and education.

The final semester project will challenge each student to develop their own thesis of our cybernetic future.

"The task that each student will be confronted with is to come up with some views of the future and support their views by using current ongoing research, a historical precedent as the basis for their argument, developing predictive models that can be tested, or in any other way they can think of," said Gauvin.

Unlike a history, mathematics, science or language course, 'Peeking into our Cybernetic Future', does not provide students with an existing body of material to serve as a study guide, but rather encourages creative thought.

"Professor Gauvin's seminar serves an important and very useful mission. Exploration of the cybernetic future will help students test their ability to learn and to think for themselves and thus help them realize their intellectual potential. The seminar is, moreover, designed to test the very limits of what we know and what we are also ignorant of in order to see better who we are and who we ought to be," said Suchan.

"The question that needs to be asked is whether or not the future is uncertain, it may not be. Given the advances in technology and the sciences it may be possible to predicate our future. The advances we see today may have been predicted in science fiction," said Gauvin. "The great value to students learning about the future is that there is no right or wrong idea. Students will be assessed by how well they can support their ideas."

The unique course, according to Gauvin is designed to assist students with their researching skills, as well as improve their writing and debating skills and to instill some new found confidence in the fate of the world.

"What I would really like the students to be able to say after the course is complete is that they found a new confidence in their ideas and their ability to create their own destiny in our modern world," said Gauvin.

The course will meet weekly in the Haenssler Honors Center on the UMFK campus, Wednesday evenings between 6:30 and 9:20 p.m., beginning January 12.

For more information on the class, contact Gauvin at (207) 834-7519. To register, contact the UMFK registrar's office at (207) 834-7520 or toll free at 1-888-TRY-UMFK.