Electrical Engineering 24, Section 1

An Informal Philosophy of Technology (1 unit, P/NP)

Professor Edward Lee
Tuesday 11:00-12:00, 531 Cory Hall, Class number: 46394

This seminar is about technology, how it advances, who makes it advance, and what are its limits. It will examine the complicated relationships between engineering, science, and mathematics, and between design, invention and discovery. It will study the intellectual and creative processes of engineering and look at how digital technology and software have advanced to the point where they offer a medium of creativity that is almost entirely unconstrained by physics. It will study the limits to technological advances, including fundamental limits, human imagination, and our human inability to readily assimilate new paradigms. The seminar will examine how technology revolutions come about and the role that paradigms play, updating the classic work by Kuhn and applying it to technology rather than science. The seminar will confront contemporary controversies, particularly the proposition put forth by many today that software and digital information are universal models, subsuming physics and cognition, body and soul. Students will discuss how technology, and particularly software will continue to coevolve with humans.

There are no particular prerequisites, but a strong interest in mathematics, science, and computing will be necessary to fully engage. Students will read one chapter per week of a forthcoming book and meet to discuss the ideas in the chapter.

Instructor Bio

Edward A. Lee is the Robert S. Pepper Distinguished Professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) department at U.C. Berkeley. His research interests center on design, modeling, and analysis of cyber-physical systems. He is the director of the nine-university TerraSwarm Research Center (http://terraswarm.org), a director of Chess, the Berkeley Center for Hybrid and Embedded Software Systems, and the director of the Berkeley Ptolemy project. From 2005-2008, he served as chair of the EE Division and then chair of the EECS Department at UC Berkeley. He is co-author of seven books and hundreds of papers. He has led the development of several influential open-source software packages, notably Ptolemy and its various spinoffs. He received his BS degree in 1979 from Yale University, with a double major in Computer Science and Engineering and Applied Science, an SM degree in EECS from MIT in 1981, and a PhD in EECS from UC Berkeley in 1986. From 1979 to 1982 he was a member of technical staff at Bell Labs in Holmdel, New Jersey, in the Advanced Data Communications Laboratory. He is a co-founder of BDTI, Inc., where he is currently a Senior Technical Advisor, and has consulted for a number of other companies. He is a Fellow of the IEEE, was an NSF Presidential Young Investigator, won the 1997 Frederick Emmons Terman Award for Engineering Education, and received the 2016 Outstanding Technical Achievement and Leadership Award from the IEEE Technical Committee on Real-Time Systems (TCRTS).

Faculty web site: http://eecs.berkeley.edu/~eal


Enrollment is limited to no more than 15 students.