Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students
Technologies of Civilization: Writing, Numbers, and Money
For the last 5,000 years, civilization has been growing at an exponential rate. The keys to this growth are the technologies of civilization: writing, numbers, and money. These technologies allow the creation of complex societies and enhance human cognition. We will investigate the role of cognition in shaping history and the role of history in shaping cognition. The perspective of the course is global, with an emphasis on the Western tradition and its ancient Greek roots. We will focus on several moments of invention (the alphabet, the abacus, the coin, etc.), but we will put them in a wider context: How does a culture develop tools for processing information? In their class projects, students will develop and present in-depth study of some tools with which contemporary American civilization processes its own information.