Intelligent robots are becoming ever more present in our lives (think of self-driving cars) and ever more sophisticated. This raises two kinds of important questions.
First, like any other powerful technology (e.g. nuclear power, genetic engineering), there are important ethical questions about how AI and robotics technology can and should be deployed, and what its impact will be on society. This topic includes regulations, and the processes by which regulations are proposed, adopted, and enforced.
Second, unlike other technologies, AI (and thus intelligent robotics) involves creating agents that make their own decisions about how to act in the world. Ethics is a kind of foundational knowledge that humans use to decide how to act. We need to understand the structure of that knowledge, so the AIs we create will have the knowledge they need to act appropriately.
We are going to try to meet the needs of several distinct audiences with overlapping courses.
ROB 599 (1.5-credit graduate cognate course). This course focuses on guest lectures from experts in related disciplines (e.g., philosophy, cognitive science, psychology, public policy, law, etc.). This course is intended for students who want an overview of ethical issues in AI and Robotics from a number of perspectives.
The course will meet once a week for 1.5 hours. About two-thirds of the course meetings will be guest lectures, and the other third will be lectures by Professors Atkins and/or Kuipers. Professors Atkins and Kuipers co-taught a version of this ROB 599 during the W18 term.
EECS 598 (four-credit graduate special topics course). This course provides a deeper treatment of the ethical issues raised by AI and Robotics, building on the guest lectures from ROB 599, reading and analyzing arguments by other researchers, identifying and posing ethical questions, and evaluating potential solutions.
This course will have two 1.5 hour lectures and one 1.0 hour discussion section each week. One of lecture meetings will be shared with the 1.5-credit ROB 599 described above.
EECS 498 (four-credit undergraduate special topics course).
Q: Rather than having a separate EECS 498 offering with different requirements, how about if we simply allow sufficiently interested and qualified undergraduates to take EECS 598 with permission of the instructor?
Since we will be drawing on insights from multiple researchers with different perspectives, it is important for anyone working in this area to remember the important lesson of The Blind Men and the Elephant. We will gather clues where we can, to infer what our "elephant" looks like.