PHIL 239
The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence Spring 2020
Division II
Cross-listed STS 239
This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

We will someday live alongside artificially intelligent beings who equal or exceed us. Commentators ranging from technology magnates to physics geniuses-not to mention decades of apocalyptic science fiction-have urged that that future is nothing short of an existential threat to human beings. Whether this is hyperbole or wise prognostication, it cannot be denied that the rise of AI will be a tectonic shift for culture, technology, and our fundamental sense of ourselves. When AI is fully realized, it is likely to be amongst the most important things to happen to our species. Some challenges we face are broad and about the future, though perhaps not the far future. How can we ensure that AI’s will act morally? Is a world with AI’s overall better or worse for us? How do we create legal and policy frameworks that cover a new kind of thinking being? If they are conscious, will AI’s have dignity and rights? Other questions are pressing and immediate: Artificial intelligence techniques are used today to help decide whether someone gets a bank loan, is eligible to be released on bail, or in need of particular medical treatment. And right now there are autonomous vehicles deciding how to behave in traffic, and autonomous weapons capable of delivering lethal force. Is it moral for us to pass along these sorts of decisions to AI’s? What if they are biased, unbeknownst to us? What if they are more fair? In this course we will engage ethical questions surrounding the seeming inevitability of AI.
The Class: Format: lecture; mixture of lectures and discussion
Limit: 25
Expected: 25
Class#: 3508
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: four short (3- to 4-page) writing assignments and a final essay (8-10 pages)
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: CSCI or PHIL majors or STS or COGS concentrators
Distributions: Division II
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
PHIL 239 Division II STS 239 Division II
Attributes: PHIL Contemporary Value Theory Courses

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