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2018 Conference

Liberal Arts, JPEG

Conference Description

A liberal arts education has always had the ability to transform a student, and thus to transform how they choose to organize their time in adult life: both the time they spend at work and the time they spend at leisure. Yet the factors influencing what sorts of work and what sorts of leisure are available are in a state of increasing flux.  From AI-driven automation, to globalization, to infinite entertainment delivered instantly to the palm of your hand, the general conditions of work and leisure are undergoing a radical transformation.

In this shifting landscape, what role do the liberal arts have to play?  In addition to a liberal education being valuable for its own sake, how can it prepare students for an economy in which whole sectors of work may rapidly shrink or disappear, e.g., through off-shoring or automation?  And how can it help students develop the habit of spending their free time well, in the face of endless possibilities for distraction?  This conference will seek answers to these questions.

Contact: Jon K. Burmeister

marber      Dr. Peter Marber, Finance, Global Affairs (NYU, Johns Hopkins)

muir    Dr. Russell Muirhead, Government (Dartmouth College)

roochnik     Dr. David Roochnik, Philosophy (Boston University)

crane   quigley

Panel Discussion, with the three speakers and:

Dr. Mary Crane, English / Institute for Liberal Arts (Boston College)
Dr. David Quigley, Provost / History (Boston College)
Jon K. Burmeister, Philosophy / Conference Organizer



PHIL 2287:
What is the Meaning of Work and Leisure?

Boston College: Summer Session II, 2018

Dr. Jon K. Burmeister

We spend much of our lives working, or preparing ourselves to work. We spend much of the rest of our time pursuing leisure. But what are our goals in doing so? How important is it for our work to be meaningful? And is leisure the mere absence of work, or something more?  This course will ask what role work and leisure can play in a fulfilling life, along with the question of how AI and automation will affect these two areas in the future.  Readings will be in philosophy, sociology, religion, economics, and technology, from thinkers such as Aristotle, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Max Weber, J.M. Keynes, Hannah Arendt, and Brynjolfsson/McAfee (MIT Sloan School).

Questions about the course? Write

Video with Andrew McAfee (MIT Sloan School)
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  2017 Conference


Conference Description

The relationship between our technologies and our work has always been an intimate one, whether the plow to the ancient farmer or the MRI machine to the neurologist.  Yet we now live in an age in which our technologies are advancing so rapidly that their effects on our future working lives are increasingly difficult to predict.  While some thinkers argue that we are nearing a future in which automated labor will lead to wide-scale unemployment, others argue that the past trend of technology creating more jobs than it destroys will continue.  Whatever the case, in light of the advent of self-driving cars and software that can write news stories, it is prudent for us to consider what technological automation might be able to do for us, what it can never do for us, and how its future developments might impact our daily working lives.

Contact: Jon K. Burmeister

Dr. Juliet Floyd, Philosophy (Boston University)

“Automation and Conversation: Wittgenstein and Turing on ‘Cultural Searches’ and Common Sense”

 Dr. Robert Margo, Economics (Boston University)

“Technology, Skill, and Income Distribution:  Where We Have Been and Where     We (Might) be Headed”

Dr. Juliet Schor, Sociology (Boston College)

“Uber-fication: Digital Platforms and the Future of Work”

 Dr. William Griffith, Computer Science (Boston College)

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Work & Leisure Resources


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