Penn State
Lewis Katz Building, University Park, PA
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Epochal Happenings: AI’s Past, Present and Future

Course Abbreviation: 
Credit Only: N Anon Gr: N

As we hurdle into a different future, innovation will play a leading role. Throughout the history of civilization, innovation, creativity and technology have transformed lives, organizations, entire communities and societies writ large. In almost every instance, our ancestors have grappled with the choice between the alchemy of greed and the freedom to develop market economies; alternatively, to seek to create a more just and fair society.

We would posit that going forward your and future generations are more likely to reframe the alternatives.  More specifically, and almost assuredly, people will ask if it is possible to sustain the free market system AND do so responsibly and ethically with an eye towards building a more just and fair society. By reframing the question, you will be able to resolve the tension implicit in the two opposable constructs and potentially form a new and superior model and attendant outcomes.

There may never be anything more interesting than the technological innovations being enabled by Artificial Intelligence (AI) today.  You will learn a bit about the origins of AI, what AI is, what it is not, its capabilities, consequences and implications for business and society. You will also learn about Ethical AI and the myriad issues that surround the design and development of AI-based applications, e.g., Bias, Privacy, Liability, Transparency, and more.

Stephen Hawking said: ”Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history.”  He went on to say: “Unfortunately it might also be the last....” Elon Musk called AI “...our greatest existential threat.”  Bill Gates has rhetorically asked why some are not concerned about AI. Others, many others, believe that the advent of AI, ML, Natural Language Processing, robotics, algorithms, correlations, probabilities, computational mathematics, etc., will have massive salutary effects on our workforce, business and society.  Furthermore, they believe the changes AI will reap are unstoppable. But will AI only be used for good, regardless of intention?  Are the changes unstoppable?

History suggests that unintended consequences oftentimes lead to inequitable outcomes.  What role does public policy play today?  What role should it play? Have policies in respect to technology kept pace with the exponential changes in technological capabilities over time? Should we attempt to be prescriptive? Or is there a better answer? We will explore these and other questions as well as the possible roles for which lawyers, elected officials, and Public Policy experts will be responsible.

If you are interested in the transformational effects of AI, the ideal of an ethical AI landscape and what role you might play in helping create it, this course is for you.