Ethics of Artificial Intelligence

UG Y4 + MSc

Course description

Artificial intelligence (AI) is developing at an extremely rapid pace. We expect to see significant changes in our society as AI systems become embedded in various aspects of our lives. This course will introduce students to philosophical issues raised by current and future AI systems.

No previous familiarity with the literature on AI will be assumed.


The class meets every week for 11 weeks for a 2-hour session.

The classes have a different format from that of most other philosophy courses. This format emphasises writing and discussion in class. Students are expected to have read the assigned readings in advance of the class. During class, students discuss the readings and work in small groups to answer questions based on the readings.

Groups may be instructed to argue for a particular case (pro or contra). They may asked to assess the merits of a given view. They may be asked to look for counterexamples to a generalisation or fallacies with a specific argument. They may be asked to find out some background information that is relevant to answering a question. After considering each question, the whole class comes together to discuss what each group has done, synthesize the results, and see how it helps address the topic for the week.

Course content

Questions considered in the course include:

  • How do we align the aims of autonomous AI systems with our own?
  • Does the future of AI pose an existential threat to humanity?
  • How do we prevent learning algorithms from acquiring morally objectionable biases?
  • Should autonomous AI be used to kill in warfare?
  • How should AI systems be embedded in our social relations? Is it permissible to fall in love with an AI system?
  • What sort of ethical rules should AI like a self-driving car use?
  • Can AI systems suffer moral harms? And if so, of what kinds?
  • Can AI systems be moral agents? If so, how should we hold them accountable?
  • How should we live with and understand minds that are alien to our own?