Comparative Human Societies
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   Welcome,

In this sociology course, we will explore Prof. Lenski's (1924-2015) and Prof. Nolan's (n.d.) ecological-evolutionary theory of human societies. With their emphasis on how technology is the driving force responsible for human societal change, Lenski and Nolan will explain how, over the last 12,000 years, hunting and gathering, horticultural, agrarian, and industrial societies have developed, functioned, and evolved. Finally, to round out our understanding of comparative human societies, we will use the works of James Burke (b. 1936), a science historian, to help 'see' how technological advancements are connected. It is my hope, using this macro-sociological framework, that we will gain a better understanding of our current society by getting to know the proverbial stranger in their so called strange land.

For those of you who ask, "Why is this type of knowledge so important to my academic education?," I offer the following short story:

Dwar Ev ceremoniously soldered the final connection with gold. The eyes of a dozen television cameras watched him and the subether bore throughout the universe a dozen pictures of what he was doing.
He straightened and nodded to Dwar Reyn, then moved to a position beside the switch that would complete the contact when he threw it. The switch that would connect, all at once, all of the monster computing machines of all the populated planets in the universe ninety-six billion planets into the supercircuit that would connect them all into one supercalculator, one cybernetics machine that would combine all the knowledge of all the galaxies.
Dwar Reyn spoke briefly to the watching and listening trillions. Then after a moment's silence he said, "Now, Dwar Ev."
Dwar Ev threw the switch. There was a mighty hum, the surge of power from ninety-six billion planets. Lights flashed and quieted along the miles-long panel.
Dwar Ev stepped back and drew a deep breath. "The honor of asking the first question is yours, Dwar Reyn."
"Thank you," said Dwar Reyn. "It shall be a question which no single cybernetics machine has been able to answer."
He turned to face the machine. "Is there a God?"
The mighty voice answered without hesitation, without the clicking of a single relay.
"Yes, now there is a God."
Sudden fear flashed on the face of Dwar Ev. He leaped to grab the switch.
A bolt of lightning from the cloudless sky struck him down and fused the switch shut.

As you can plainly read, Fredric Brown's (1906-1972) "Answer" (1954:23-24) is a cautionary science fiction tale that forces us to ponder two questions. The first is, which is obvious,
"Who is in control, us or the technologies (i.e., hand-held computers; algorithm bots; economic forces; bureaucracies, be they corporate or governmental; etc.)?"
The second, and more important, question is,
"If we are not control, how do we regain our freedoms, those being the "freedom from" and the "freedom to"?"


   See you in class or around campus,
   Prof. Jensen
   
   P.S. Please print and read the syllabus; we will discuss it in detail during the second day of class.