Carnegie Mellon University

Grand Challenge Freshman Seminar: Artificial Intelligence and Humanity

Course Number: 66-161 / 16-161

In 1965 British mathematician I.J. Good wrote, “An ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines;  there would then unquestionably be an ‘intelligence explosion,’ and the intelligence of man would be left far behind.” As we enter an age where companies like Uber are testing driverless cars in Pittsburgh and innovative interfaces like IBM’s Watson can play jeopardy and learn techniques for medical diagnoses, how are we to negotiate an ‘intelligence explosion’ that for many individuals might threaten the very notions of what it means to be human? The future of human-to-machine relationships will likely define our historical epoch and yet, many young technologists and humanists underestimate the downstream impact of technological innovations on human society. Presently, we have little choice but to attend to this rapidly anxiety-ridden question.

This seminar will attend to the challenge of contemporary existential questions on what it means to be human (read not machine) in the context of a rapidly advancing technological age. We will consider human narratives throughout history that exam how governments and individual citizens defined humanity in the context of slavery and colonialism as a framework for exploring and projecting what it means to be human in the age of rapidly advancing ‘intelligent’ machines. We will trace the technological advancements of the recent five decades and identify historical precedents and speculative narratives that help us to consider issues like labor, economic disparity, negotiations of power, human dignity and ethical responsibility within the context of human relations with advancing technological tools that are now coined, artificial intelligence.

Academic Year: 2019-2020
Semester(s): Fall