The Algorithmic Sublime

Eugene Lang College Lib Arts: Liberal Arts

Liberal Arts
Undergraduate Course
Degree Students
The Algorithmic Sublime
Fall 2024
Taught By: Frank Shepard
Section: AX

CRN: 17286

Credits: 4

The sublime as a philosophical concept refers to that which exceeds rationality: the incomprehensible beauty and horror of the spirit and the natural world. But if the sublime is irrational (literally, cannot be subjected to logic) how can we make sense of the various ways that it is mediated by the rigidly logical systems of computational machinery? From Alan Turing’s foundational thought experiment that imagined a machine making inscriptions on an infinitely long tape, to so-called “Big-O notation” measuring algorithmic complexity, from the study of uncomputable numbers, to the notions of countable and uncountable sets that compare differing degrees of infinity: computer science has always been entangled with questions of growth and the infinite, theorizing its own limits and transcending them. In this course, we will read texts in philosophy, media studies, religious studies, visual culture, futurism, and the environmental humanities to develop a deep understanding of how the unfathomable is rendered operable by algorithms and digital media. We will consider examples including quantum computing, “Big Data” and the cloud, generative artworks, machine learning, and techniques in climate modeling, as well as fears of a looming AI apocalypse known as “the Singularity”. Coursework will include programming exercises. No prior coding experience is required, although prior exposure via classes such as “Code Toolkit” will be helpful.

College: Eugene Lang College Lib Arts (LC)

Department: Liberal Arts (LIB)

Campus: New York City (GV)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Modality: In-Person

Max Enrollment: 18

Add/Drop Deadline: September 9, 2024 (Monday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: November 17, 2024 (Sunday)

Seats Available: Yes

* Seats available but reserved for a specific population.

Status: Open*

* Status information is updated every few minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 11:06am EDT 7/12/2024

Meeting Info:
Days: Friday
Times: 9:00am - 11:40am
Building: 6 East 16th Street
Room: 600
Date Range: 8/26/2024 - 12/15/2024