Sociology of Robots: An Exciting Opportunity

Examining the impacts of artificial intelligence (AI) on our daily lives

April 22, 2022

Sociology of Robots is an incredibly popular course at Grinnell College for a reason: it offers an exciting opportunity to study artificial intelligence in a hands-on environment.

What are the social effects of ever-increasing automation in our lives? Does it get in the way of how we relate to one another? In Sociology of Robots (SOC 295), you will explore the social effects of automation in our daily lives, habits, and relationships with others. You’ll use social scientific methods of study to examine our society’s relationship with machine life and its cultural consequences.

Student hangs paper on wall for group discussion

In this hands-on course, you’ll get to know the logic of devices, robots, and algorithms, as well as their implications for the humans who use them. Karla Erickson, a professor of sociology who teaches this class, says that SOC 295 is a helpful course for almost any career development path. She hopes that literacy about technology will become a trademark of liberal arts education going forward.

“Many of the social inequalities that we work to redress are being automated and even accelerated by technology, so Grinnellians need to be informed,” Erickson says.  

According to Erickson, Grinnellians who have taken this course say that it “allowed them the space to investigate some hunches and concerns and awakened them to many new curiosities” about how artificially intelligent devices work and their social consequences.

AI has made huge strides in the past few decades, and in this course, Grinnellians can have a front-row seat to learn about the newest technologies. SOC 295 encourages insightful discussions and relevant research. Students who have taken the course are better prepared for their lives and careers, regardless of their field. You will learn about machine logic, ethics, cooperation, and human values in an age in which we increasingly share our lives with robots, algorithms, and the internet of things.  

Grinnell allows students and faculty to follow their curiosity wherever it leads. At this crucial phase in history, Erickson says we are facing many difficult decisions about human value, rights, and labor; Grinnell students are poised to become major players in this decision-making process.

Students in all areas of study are better prepared for their lives and paid work after having had the opportunity to consider the machines we live with, Erickson says.  

Have you stopped to look around you to see the machines with which you interact on a daily basis? You might be surprised at their impact.

Learn more about studying sociology at Grinnell College

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