Ideas for Classes, Seminars, and Study Groups

Below are some study groups, seminars, and discussion topics that I've been interested in organizing, have organized, and might organize again, if I can find sufficient interest. Cyan rows are groups that I have run; purple is for groups that I have seriously tried to run; and yellow is for group ideas that have never been seriously developed.

Endeavor Name Description Collaborators Last Updated
Learning Seminar Alternative Learning seminar: studying the principles of alternative education, and the experiments that have tried to put them into action. See the webpage. [Ran in Spring 2003] 2004 12 17
Artificial Intelligence Workshop Five projects in artificial intelligence, which collectively address many of the major areas of A.I., including low and high-level perception, natural language, knowledge-management, and the modeling of rational thought, creativity, and learning; and involve several of its famous methods, such as genetic algorithms, neural networks, heuristics, semantic networks, and statistical algorithms. Read the syllabus. 2002 06 15
Human System Dynamics Reading-motivated class to explore the principles and intuitions of system dynamics as applied to human systems, such as societies, subcultures, working groups, relationships, and individuals in social contexts. Human System Dynamics is an emerging field constantly trying to synthesize an endless collection of subtle and counterintuitive observations. This class emphasizes the methods of thinking behind system dynamics by discussing and modeling some of those important observations. Read the syllabus. 2002 06 09
The Way Things Work This seminar will take an in depth look at dozens of different inventions, mostly from the The Way Things Work books. To suppliment the information in those books we will be looking into the history and modern uses of many of the inventions we look at, as well as building a model of an invention or a piece of an invention each week. Read the syllabus. There was also a study group attempt at this seminar. 2001 11 27
Philosophy of Engineeing Study the role of philosphy in engineering and innovation, both for engineers and their work. Semester-long themes will include the development of modern mathematics and modern industry, and the concepts of systems and progress, "form vs. function", and skill knowledge versus craft knowledge. The class will consider ethical questions in engineering, and the ideas of perspective, the "good life", intelligence and machines, reductionism, abstraction, and "human" elements. Organized historically and in the spirit of exploration. 2004 12 10
Leonardo da Vinci Seminar Modeled after Peter Dourmashkin's Spring 2000 seminar
Greek Mathematics Modeled after Lee Perlman's Greek Mathematics seminars and History of Algebra seminar
Engineering Language Introduction to linguistics, the uses of language, the manipulation of understanding, and the development of new languages.
Engineering Communities Visiting local communes, discussing concerns, ideas, and possibilities involved.
Godel, Escher, Bach Description:
Follow-up Comment:
Godel, Escher, Bach I did once before, 2 years ago. If you don't know it, GEB is an amazing book that finds mind-bending connections between math (Godel), art (Escher), and music (Bach) and ties it back in with A.I. Basically, every week we'd read a chapter and discuss the ideas, go on weird tangents, figure out what Hofstadter was trying to say. Some people were reading the book for the first time, some re-reading it, some just coming for the discussion. Have you ever read GEB?
2001 11 02
A.I. Group Description:
Follow-up Comment:
The A.I. Group can be a lot of different things, and it's definitely open to people who are just getting introduced to AI. First, I just want to find out who in ESG is interested in AI. From there, we can sit down and learn about methods and approaches to AI, collaborate on projects (both Glenn and I have some neat ones we're working on), share new ideas. Do you know what in AI most interests you?
2002 11 02
Junto Group Description:
Follow-up Comment:
I've recently been reading Ben's _Autobiography_ and that's where I got the idea. I'll let him tell you about it:
I should have mentioned before, that, in the autumn of the preceding year, I had form'd most of my ingenious acquaintance into a club of mutual improvement, which we called the JUNTO; we met on Friday evenings. The rules that I drew up required that every member, in his turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss'd by the company; and once in three months produce and read an essay of his own writing, on any subject he pleased.
What do you think?
2002 11 02
Ignorant Esperanto Group Description:
Follow-up Comment:
I don't know Esperanto, but I want to and I've always thought that foreign languages would work well in ESG, because we can just spend our time using the language with each other. So my idea is just to get some books and meet a least once a week and pretend we can communicate no other way. We could also dredge up some ESGer who does know it to help us. Do you know Esperanto at all?
2002 11 02
Pagan Religious Ideas Description:
We looked at beliefs related to Asatru, Buddhism, Cthulhuism, Druidism, the Egyptian and Hellenic pantheon, Scientology, Shamanism, Thelema, Vodou, and Wicca. Follow-up Comment:
I tried to get this started over the summer with the idea that we'd each take some pagan religion and then get together and just discuss the ideas, compare and contrast, see what we wanted to look closer at as we went along. It turned out to be a bit too undirected, so we started losing people. Instead, what I want to try this time is to say "okay, this week we look at (say) ancient egyptian religion; here's stuff to look into beforehand."
2002 11 02
Lego Robotics Seminar Do you like playing with legos? Do you think building stuff is neat? Do you want to learn some robotics? This might be the class for you.

No previous experience with robotics or legos is necessary- if you have no idea how a gear train works, that's fine, and if you've been building with technic legos since before you could walk, that's fine too.

Alex Khripin, Colin Dillard 2003 02 01
Determinable Seminar Study ancient alchemy, learn caligraphy, explore the possibility of life on other planets, read great works of science fiction-- it's up to you! At the beginning of the semester, you choose an area that you want to explore, but you need not stick to your original choice. Weekly meetings will be opportunities to discuss your progress. 2003 02 01
Seminar Seminar This is a form of the Determinable Seminar, with some additional structure toward creating a seminar as the end result of each person's work. See the proposal and a syllabus. Dan Zaharopol 2001 09 07
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Read and discuss this important work. Done as a four week IAP seminar. See the handouts: one (for introduction) and two (for discussion). 2001 01 09
Additional Ideas: