Questioning Efficiency: Human Factors and Existential Phenomenology
Prof. Hubert Dreyfus (Philosophy)- office hours Wed 4-6 303 Moses Hall
Prof. Ken Goldberg (IEOR and EECS) - office hours Mon & Wed 4:15-5, 4189 Etcheverry Hall
TA. Forrest Hartman - office hours tbd (email=dionysos at berkeley)
TA. Dilan Mahendran (email=dilan at berkeley) - office hours Wed 3:00-4:00 room 6 South Hall

Spring 2006, MW 1:10-3:00, 290 Hearst

Registration limited to 60 upper div undergrads.
Register under either:
IEOR 190G (3 units) or L&S 160A (3 units)
(This course fulfills the Breadth Category: Philosophy and Values)

Required Texts
Martin Heidegger - The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays
Fredrick W. Taylor - The Principles of Scientific Management
Course Reader (located at Copy Central on Bancroft Way $16.36)

This is the first time this course is being taught. It will have 2 course numbers depending on which unit students register through. Both courses will share the same name and room number.


Efficiency in human behavior is a goal that is rarely questioned in contemporary culture. This course will study and draw connections between disparate fields to trace the development and influence of this view. The course, drawing a mix of humanities and engineering students, will include readings and lectures on 19th and 20th century philosophers with discussions of new technology and team experimental projects.

Frederick Taylor, the father of industrial engineering, analyzed human motion to optimize industrial productivity, which had great influence on Henry Ford, military logistics, and Stalin. Michel Foucault traced the history of the minute analysis of human motion from Napoleon's methods for transforming peasants into soldiers to modern methods for reforming prisoners. Martin Heidegger claimed that "efficient ordering" was the defining characteristic of modern culture. Through the course, students will learn to recognize how this obsession with efficiency for its own sake relates to technology and to their daily lives.

Tentative Schedule (subject to change!):

Week 11/18Introduction and Overview
Week 21/23 Heidegger: Memorial Address (in Course Reader)
Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management (pp. 1-35)
1/25 Film Clips: Modern Times/Man with a Movie Camera
Week 31/30 Discussion of Film Clips
2/1 Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management (pp. 35-76) notes
Week 42/6 Heidegger: The Age of the World Picture (pp. 115-136) notes
2/8 Heidegger: The Question Concerning Technology (pp. 3-35) notes
Week 52/13 Heidegger: The Question Concerning Technology notes
2/15 Team Project Meetings/ Course Discussions Sections
Week 62/20No class, Presidentís Day
2/22 Anson Rabinbach: Introduction and Ch. Four (pp. 84-119 in Course Reader) notes
Week 72/27 Human Factors and Fitts Law lecture ppt slides (Web-Based Test of Fitts Law)
3/1 Revisiting Heidegger: The Question Concerning Technology (pp. 3-35) notes See page on Stages of Technology (adapted from Heidegger)
Week 8 3/6 Foucault: Docile Bodies (pp. 135-169, See Course Reader) notes
3/8 Foucault: Docile Bodies and The Examination ("Being and Power" by Hubert Dreyfus, comparing Heidegger's notion of 'being' and Foucault's notion of 'power')
Week 9 3/13 Prof. Gene Rochlin: Taylorism in the 20th Century. Read: Chapter 4 - Taylorism Redux? from Trapped in the Net: The Unanticipated Consequences of Computerization
3/15 Discussion Sections w/ GSI's, Grps 2,3,4 meet Dilan in 344 Campbell,other groups meet Forrest in 290 Hearst
Week 10 3/20 Teams meet "at Large" to work on Team Projects
3/22 (meet at Berkeley Art Museum): Tour of Measure Of Time Art Exhibit
Midterm Paper Due in Class   (Paper Topic)
Week 113/27 No class, Spring Recess
3/29No class, Spring Recess
Week 124/3 Teams Meet in Classroom to finalize Team Projects
4/5 Team Experimental Project presentations
Week 134/10 Team Experimental Project presentations
4/12 Heidegger: The Thing (pp. 163-180, See Course Reader)
Week 144/17 Heidegger: The Thing
4/19 Albert Borgmann: Focal Things and Practices (pp. 196-210)
Week 154/24 Film: Babette’s Feast
4/26 Discussion of Babette’s Feast
Week 165/1 James Gleick: Faster (pp. 211-225)
5/3 TBA
Week 175/8 Final Paper (hand in during class)   (Paper Topic)

Readings, selections from:

Martin Heidegger: "Memorial Address", in Discourse on Thinking, Harper Perennial, 1969. In Course Reader.

Frederick Winslow Taylor: The Principles of Scientific Management (1911). reprinted by Dover Publications, Mineola, NY, 1998.

Martin Heidegger: The Age of the World Picture, in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, W. Lovitt, Trans., New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1977.

Martin Heidegger: The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, W. Lovitt, Trans., New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1977.

Anson Rabinbach: The Human Motor: Energy, Fatigue and the Origins of Modernity, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990).

Michel Foucault: Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, A. Sheridan, Trans., (New York: Pantheon Books, 1977). Docile Bodies.

Martin Heidegger: "The Thing" in Poetry, Language, Thought, A. Hofstadter, Trans., (New York: Harper & Row, 1971). The Thing.

Albert Borgmann: Technology and the Character of Everyday Life. (Chicago: U. Chicago, 1984). Chp. 23, Focal Things and Practices.

James Gleick: Faster, (New York: Vintage Books, 1999).


Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin
Man with a Movie Camera
Babette's Feast
plus other clips

Engineering lectures and projects will be accessible to both engineering and humanities students:

Grading and Exams

There will be one short mid-term paper, one team experimental project (see samples below), and one final paper (with an option to do a final project instead).

Sample Team Experimental Project:
1) Study and minimize the time and motions required to complete a simple task such as assembling a child's puzzle, putting a deck of cards into numerical order, or stacking cups. Report using photos, graphs, video.

2) Design and perform an experiment to study the time it takes to dial a list of phone numbers (eg, on different phones, familiar vs new numbers, etc). Analyze, report, and discuss the results.