Course Organization

Under Construction

UNIV 3275 Spring 2020: The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence

Class meets T/Th, 2:35 pm – 3:50 pm, Rand 8

Douglas H. Fisher (Computer Science; Computer Engineering; Communication of Science & Technology) office hours T/Th 11:00 am – 11:30 am FGH 388   

Haerin Shin (English; Cinema & Media Arts; Asian Studies), office hours T/Th 9 am – 10:50 am in Benson 412

This is a 3-credit course, and our expectation is that each student will spend approximately 9 high-quality hours on it per week, including 2.5 hours of in-class time, and therefore 6.5 hours outside of class.

The graded requirements for the course include weekly individual blog posts, individual blog responses, weekly group assignments, a late-term exam, and an end-of-term group project. A group poster is required.

The course requirements, their grading weights and descriptions, are given below.

Course Requirements and Grading

  • Attendance and active participation in discussions (15%)
  • Weekly group assignments (20%)
  • Virtual Forum posts and responses (20%)
  • Late-term Exam (15%)
  • Immersive Group Project (30%)

Readings, film, and materials in other media will be required of students before the class in which the material is discussed (see Schedule). Understanding of these materials will also be reflected in weekly group assignments and discussion forum posts/responses, as well as a late-term exam and group project.

Attendance and active participation in discussions

A very important way of participating in the course is to attend class and participate in discussion. Class attendance is easily measured, and participation in discussion is more subjective (and can include participating in other active ways, like live tweeting on the discussion rather than talking out loud). We won’t quantify the quality of “active participation” here, but the quality of discussion will be informed by demonstrated knowledge of the week’s assigned and student-identified material.

Regarding attendance, which is really important in a class like this, a student can have up to three unexcused absences, and each absence thereafter counts 0.6%. We will take attendance using Top Hat. If a student is on travel or sick, we can set up a virtual connection using Zoom that will allow them to “attend”. We are pretty much softies if you contact us ahead of the class you are going to miss.

We’ll excuse classes missed before a student adds the course, and we’ll consider outstanding participation in discussion as potentially compensating for a past missed class.

Time required for class attendance each week is 2.5 hours.

Time required for assimilation of assigned material before classes is estimated at 2.5 hours.

Group Assignments

Over the semester there will be approximately 8 group assignments, 4 more technical and 4 more literary. The group size will be 3, and is intended to ensure that each student will reflect with others. Group membership will change from week to week, and will be interdisciplinary to the extent possible. We estimate that the time required for the group exercise is 3 hours, with 1.5 to 2 hours required for the interaction with technology and literature, and 1.0 to 0.5 hours required for the short-answer questions.

Group Technical Assignments

Technical group assignments are intended to explore “under-the-hood” aspects of AI, as well as exploring the ethics of an AI application. This class does not require a technical background and is open to all majors, and the technical assignments are designed with this in mind. Examples of technical assignments can include running an off-the-shelf, easy-to-use machine learning system on judicial decision-making data; and running an easy-to-use intelligent vehicle simulation that illustrates different “moral” choices in accident scenarios.

Following the technical exercise, students will collectively fill out answers to questions about the exercise that is intended to seed deeper reflection.

Group Literary Assignments

These assignments are intended to reflect on “preempting the future” by considering the future of AI in a variety of situations found in literature, and to imagine how this future might be shaped. After reading an excerpt from a literary piece students will collectively answer questions, or answer in other formats, such as writing a short script about a possible future.

Virtual Forum posts and responses

Each week, and for each reading from that week, students will make an individual post that proposes a possible exam question and a short answer to that question based on the reading and their own reflection. Each week students will respond to at least two such questions with an alternative answers to a proposed question or a modestly revised question. Proposed questions can be no more than 30 words, and proposed answers can be no more than 50 words, and no less than 20 words.

80% of the late-term exam will be taken from these posts and responses.

We estimate that the time for posts and responses to be 1.0 hour per week for writing and reflection, with the understanding that reflection time is built into all components of the course.

Typical Week (Week k)

  • Finish studying materials for week k that were assigned in week k-1 (i.e., readings, film, or in other media) by Monday of week k;
  • Forum posts are due Mondays of week k at 12:00 pm
  • Weekly Group Assignments are due Wednesdays of week k at 12:00 pm
  • Form groups for week k+1 in Thursday class of week k
  • Forum post followups are due by Saturday of week k at 12:00 pm
  • Start studying materials and planning group assignment meet ups for week k+1 (if you haven’t already)

Because all materials are posted for each week at the start of the semester, please organize your study so that you can meet the weekly deadlines. This may require, for example, that you do not wait until after Thursday class to start the following week’s reading.

Late-term Exam

An exam will be given in the second-to-last week of the semester. 80% of the points total will be questions that were proposed on the Discussion Forums.

Final Group Project

The final group project will be of each group’s own design, and will include a collaboratively-written report (e.g., that describes any computational AI studies, related work, motivation, and the like) and a collaboratively-prepared poster that will be used in a class conference. Teams will be formed to be interdisciplinary to the extent possible. The content of the project will vary with student interests, and can be on areas precisely covered in class (e.g., a survey and analysis with therapy robots) or on topics not substantially covered in class, but under the same broad umbrella of AI sub areas (e.g., humanoid household-work robots).

Consultations between student groups and the instructors will accompany group design, development, and conclusion of the project.

Other typical course responsibilities, described above, will be adjusted to allow for work on the project in the last quarter of the semester.

While the final group project is collaborative, an individual student reflection of the project is also required.  More on the final group project is found here.