I’m Not Just “Surviving” As a Social Science Student At a Tech School, I Am Thriving.

When I tell people I’m studying Psychology at IIT, I get some people who look at me like I’ve got a third arm growing out of the top of my head. (Boy, would that drive phrenologists mad)

“WHY would you study Psychology at a tech school?” they ask, incredulously.

IIT offers a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology, with a program based in the research/practitioner model. This means that as a psych student at IIT, you are instilled with a proficiency in the scientific methods for conducting research in academic institutions and private entities, in addition to setting you on track if you want to pursue rehabilitation services, becoming a clinician, or a counselor. This is a huge leg up that sets IIT students apart from their competition, especially when you are looking into graduate school. Research experience is a hot commodity.

Beyond that though, a degree in Psychology from IIT prepares you for the realities of the world we are about to enter into, one where almost every facet of human life intersects with technology. There is going to be immeasurable need for scientifically literate professionals in both the social sciences and humanities, who can help us understand the human condition, and how our advancements have changed our communities, our cultures, and ourselves both positively, and negatively.

In addition to majoring in Psychology, I am also minoring in Information Technology and Management. I hope to engage my knowledge of both of these fields in research, as I plan to pursue a Ph. D. in Neuroscience. As a fan of science fiction, I am excited, terrified, and intrigued all at once by the prospect that within my lifetime humans and technology may advance to the point where we are able to interface human biology with technological enhancements that will allow us to exceed the limitations of the human body. We may be able to craft the first artificially intelligent life forms. We may be even able to delay or reverse the aging process, for all intents and purposes achieving everlasting life.

Artist Neil Harbisson was born with total colorblindness, only able to see in black, grey, and white. With the help of a computer science student Adam Montandon from Plymouth University, they created a cybernetic camera on a headset that allows him to “hear” colors. He had the device surgically attached as an antenna protruding from the back of his skull in 2004, and has since gone on to be officially recognized by many as the world’s first cyborg. He remains active as an activist for cybernetics, and is the co-founder of the Cyborg Foundation, dedicated to helping interested people become cyborgs, and advocating for cyborg rights.

This is a short video about Neil’s work.

This is a TED Talk he gave on his implant, detailing how it has changed the way he lives his life on a day to day basis.

As time went on, his entire understanding of reality was shifted by the peripheral perceptions offered by the “eyeborg.” It even fundamentally changed the way his brain understood color, as he eventually began to experience the sensations of his device even in his dreams. His brain was extrapolating colors for him to “hear” even in his sleeping hours.

This is just one example of technology and humanity merging on new fronts. On the more conservative side, we may also be able to fully understand and find cures for diseases like Alzheimer’s. We may be able to encourage people to stop smoking or exercise more by developing new smart phone apps.

Dr. Arlen Moller is a member of the Psychology faculty, currently researching Behavioral Health and Wellness (coincidentally one of the newest majors for undergraduates within the Lewis College of Human Sciences). His most recent project is focusing on encouraging people to exercise more in ways that are more meaningful, more social, more fun, and resultantly, more sustainable. Participants wear step counters throughout the day tracking their level of exercise. The steps taken are then converted into points for a fantasy sports league, which increases interaction with peers, reaching for higher scores, and engaging from week to week to increase stats.

I plan to continue to be not just an advocate for science education, but the importance of the Social Sciences in the advancement of human progress. My hope is that as time passes, the handful of people who look at me like I have that arm growing out of my head, or rather a cybernetic antenna, will shrink to none as we advance into the future of the human sciences.

Jacob McCurry, 3rd year Psychology

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