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SCI 53 — Artificial Intelligence and Science Fiction: What Sci-Fi Films and TV Shows Can Tell Us About Our Future World

Quarter: Summer
Day(s): Wednesdays
Course Format: On-campus
Duration: 5 weeks
Date(s): Jul 11—Aug 15
Time: 7:00 – 8:50 pm
Drop Deadline: Jul 24
Unit: 1
Tuition: $355
Instructor(s): Sohila Zadran, Ronjon Nag
Status: Open
Please Note: No class on August 1
7:00 – 8:50 pm
Jul 11—Aug 15
5 weeks
Drop By
Jul 24
1 Unit
Sohila Zadran, Ronjon Nag
Please Note: No class on August 1
In this course, we will explore how science fiction has foreshadowed advances in artificial intelligence and real science, and discuss which comes first: Do science fiction films and TV shows influence science, or does science influence art and fiction? We will view movie excerpts and TV episodes (such as scenes from Metropolis, Star Trek, and Black Mirror) and discuss whether the science depicted in this media is actually possible, and whether it promises to shape our emerging world in ways both utopian and dystopian. If you watch contemporary science fiction closely enough, you can get a good glimpse of what our future will look like—from the products and transportation we will use, to how we will communicate and interact with one another, to the daunting social and political problems we will need to address. For example, we might analyze scenes from Star Trek, where we investigate advances in speech recognition and robotics. Additionally, we will discuss how science fiction provides regulatory scenarios as AI becomes pervasive.

By the end of the course, students will be able to critically view science fiction with a greater feel for what technologies will become increasingly pervasive in our lives, what products they might inspire, and what policies they might necessitate for government and corporations.

Sohila Zadran, Neuroscientist

Sohila Zadran received a PhD in neuroscience from USC and was a postdoctoral fellow at Caltech. She has founded four biotech companies and serves as an advisor to several companies and to accelerators including SkyDeck and QB3. She has also worked for various Silicon Valley venture capital firms and recently joined Khosla Ventures.

Ronjon Nag, Fellow, Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute

Ronjon Nag has deployed artificial intelligence systems for mobile devices over three decades, working on neural networks at Cambridge, where he received a PhD in engineering; at Stanford, where he was a Harkness Fellow; and at MIT, where he received an MS. In 2014, he received the Mountbatten Medal from the Institution of Engineering and Technology for his contributions to the modern mobile phone industry. Companies he has co-founded or advised have been sold to Motorola, BlackBerry, and Apple.

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.