The Montreal AI Ethics Institute has interviewed me, together with my fellow ForHumanity colleagues Merve Hickok and Ryan Carrier, on our thoughts about teaching AI and ethics. Here are some of my insights:
Question: What kind of content do you teach? What topics do you cover? What kinds of readings do you usually assign?
Answer: I mostly only teach one block of 4 or 8 hours in each programme. I usually start with a very brief introduction to ethics because the students usually do not have any prior knowledge about ethics. I then move on to show where you can ‘anchor‘ ethics – i.e. at a state level (through legislation), at industry or corporate levels (through corporate AI ethics initiatives), at the level of individuals (through awareness training etc.). I spend the bulk of my time on highlighting ethical challenges based on use cases – e.g. algorithmic credit lending, facial recognition, emotion recognition, algorithms in education or in court etc. In these contexts, we discuss issues like bias, discrimination, privacy, accountability etc. In this type of continuing education, you don’t usually assign readings, but I always recommend some literature and websites to people in case they want to know more.
Question: What are some teaching techniques you have employed that have worked particularly well? For Tech Ethics, what kind of approach to teaching do you recommend?
The class size is usually quite small – not more than twenty students. Given that these are all professional adults, they are usually intrinsically motivated and keen to engage in discussion without me using a lot of specific teaching techniques. However, I also usually let them do group work, e.g. for case studies, where I assign different cases to the groups and let them explain what they have learned to their peers in plenary. In my context, the best recommendation is to keep tech ethics as applied as possible and to inspire people to reflect on what it means for their own work experience.
Question: How do you see the Tech Ethics Curriculum landscape evolve in the next 5 years? What are the changes you see happening?
I hope that Tech Ethics becomes a standard part of each degree in Tech – be it at undergraduate, graduate, or continuing education level. Everyone studying tech should be exposed to ethical questions in the classroom.
AI frees us from having to solve complex problems ourselves, but does it also deprive us of the ability to think for ourselves? In my
OpenAI states that in order to assure a rigorous design and implementation of this experiment, they need social scientists from a variety of disciplines. The title immediately caught my attention given that the kind of “AI ethics” I am dealing with hinges on an interdisciplinary approach to AI. So, I sat down and spent a couple of hours to read through the whole paper.