Beyond IQ

Exploring Scythe:
Power, Science, History, and the Last Enemy

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Instructor: Lisa Fontaine-Rainen
3-10 students
Pre-requisite: Scientific and Rational Thought sequence
Meets: Thursdays at 3:00 pm Eastern Time


Is a world without death an ideal to be dreamed of?  What if we can also ensure that everyone has enough to live?  Will it lead to a rise of art and human expression?  Will it mean we learn to be kind and build relationships to last?

And what if there’s a limit to how many humans it can support?

In Scythe we follow the story of two young apprentices, being taught the methods and intense ethics of being one of those who decides who will die, to ensure the world can continue to support humanity. 

While the premise may sound grim, the thinking they must engage in is profoundly moving.  The book affords us an opportunity to examine examples of power throughout history, the history of science, how scientific development has changed the human experience, and the role of technology and artificial intelligence in humanity’s future.  We’ll explore the relationship between the human experience and human expression, philosophy and ethics, and numerous literary and historical references. 

Participants will engage in discussions about specific chapters each class, and we will develop answers to overall questions throughout the course.  In addition to the reading, there will be small homework assignments intended to provoke thought and response – written responses are not required.  There will be a few larger assignments that may involve some research and analysis, and some creative expression.  These can be tailored to individual needs.

The following syllabus breaks down the chapters read for each week.  It will be revised to include topics and questions we’ll explore each week, and titles for each day.


Day 1: Introduction to the course and main themes. 

Reading: Chapters 1 and 2 (to be completed before the first class)

Day 2:

Reading: Chapters 3, 4, 5

Day 3:

Chapters 6, 7, 8

Day 4:

Chapters 9, 10, 11

Day 5:

Chapters 12, 13, 14

Day 6:

Chapters 15, 16, 17

Day 7:

Chapters 18, 19, 20, 21

Day 8:

Chapters 22, 23

Day 9:

Chapters 24, 25, 26

Day 10:

Chapters 27, 28, 29*  (29 may be moved to day 11)

Day 11: 

Chapters 30, 31, 32, 33

Day 12:

Chapters 34, 35, 36

Day 13:

Chapters 37, 38

Day 14:

Chapters 39, 40

Day 15: 

Examining story as a whole, discussing screen adaptations, final assignment work, looking forward.

Current assignments planned (these may be modified, some may be optional):

Research assignment: Power and corruption

Names and Scythes – a historical comparison

Self as a Scythe – a self-reflection

Study of an Artist’s Life

Creative writing assignment – imagining possible futures

Register for Exploring Scythe here!

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