STS 331
Automation in an Unequal Society Spring 2024
Division II Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed SOC 331
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Could you be competing for a job–even after getting a college degree–with a robot or an AI-powered chatbot? As technologies advance, every few years debates emerge: will this new kind of automation increase unemployment, or will it generate new kinds of jobs? Will these new jobs be more interesting and high paying, or will they be boring and poorly paid? To think these questions through, in this course we will study some key attempts to understand the socio-economic and political determinants as well as the repercussions of automation. We will delve into the micro-level dynamics operating between machines and workers involved in concrete production processes. We will also explore the macro-level trends in national and global inequality that social scientists associate with automation. In our investigation of both macro- and micro-levels, we will focus on how the risks and benefits of automation get distributed unevenly along already existing axes of class, race, gender, etc.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 20
Expected: 20
Class#: 3651
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Class participation; 1 mid-term paper proposal; 1 final paper
Prerequisites: none, open to all students
Enrollment Preferences: Preference given to ANTH/SOC majors and STS concentrators
Distributions: Division II Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
STS 331 Division II SOC 331 Division II
DPE Notes: The course is centrally concerned with the iniquitous distribution of risks and benefits of automation. Students will gain familiarity with how social scientists study the impacts of automation on class, racial, and gendered dynamics. We will consider how automation may disempower certain workers, and deepen already existing social segmentations.

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