Motivation and Overview

Artificial intelligence is being discussed in the public square as it rarely has been in the past. While AI has always been a popular topic of science fiction, high profile technologists like Elon Musk and Bill Gates are commenting on the potential dangers of AI, particularly the prospect of “general” (aka autonomous) AI, and its displacement of the human species as dominant. Optimistic views of AI look to the power of computer analysis to strengthen human decision making in areas such as environmental sustainability. Even in the realm of general artificial intelligences, the optimistic view is that collective intelligences composed of both humans and AIs will be more powerful and compassionate than either “species” would be alone. Topics addressed in the course include the technical, safety and economic implications of AI-enabled automation, to include non-manufacturing sectors on transportation, journalism, and legal advising; AI-endowed advisory tools in areas such as environmental and resource planning; biases and mediocrities in AIs, which can reinforce human prejudice and myopia; AI and personhood, to include the theological implications of AI, as well as the implications of falsely-perceived AIs.

Course Objectives

  • Learn rudimentary, but important aspects of intelligent, computational modeling and processing
  • Interrogate the ethical implication of “artificial intelligence” (as a technological, social, and cultural phenomenon
  • Examine and engage with various media instantiations (their workings, structures, effects, evolution, and interrelations)
  • Examine various concepts and properties of being – such as memory, consciousness, physical integrity, sentience, etc. – portrayed in fiction and philosophical/critical texts, and understand how they may contribute to, contradict, or shape our own perception of being in relation to technological apparatuses
  • Discuss how various forms and experiences of being that involve cognitive and bodily extension, alteration, or fusion such as artificial intelligence, cyborgs or genetically engineered entities may confirm or change our understanding of being
  • Understand the effects of form, medium-specific characteristics, and narrative strategies employed in the text
  • Develop critical skills to situate and comprehend the texts within the social and historical rubrics from which they were conceived and are currently consumed
  • Think about the new-old dynamic in media. What would qualify as new media, and why? How does the old become new, and new grow old? How does this process influence our perception and cognition?
  • Explore how the changing mediascape of the past, present, and future (the advent of the digital age ) shape our understanding of being and reality
  • Develop critical skills to situate and comprehend the texts within the social and historical rubrics from which they were conceived and are currently consumed
  • Acquire the tools (vocabulary, concept, historiography, etc.) to critically think and write about media

Douglas H. Fisher (Computer Science; Computer Engineering)
Haerin Shin (English; Cinema & Media Arts;  Asian Studies — affiliated)