Culture & Society

Texas A&M To Offer Courses On Responsible A.I.

The university is among 16 institutions accepted into an artificial intelligence ethics initiative backed by the National Humanities Center (NHC) and Google.
By Kira Schwarz '22, Texas A&M University College of Liberal Arts April 19, 2022

Texas A&M University has joined a new nationwide program that aims to boost college-level curricula about responsible artificial intelligence. The university was selected as a participant in February through an application process headed by the College of Liberal Arts, the Glasscock Center for Humanities Research and the Department of Philosophy.

Maria Escobar-Lemmon, associate dean for research and graduate education in the College of Liberal Arts, highlighted two objectives of the program. The first is to bring different points of view into the topic of artificial intelligence.

“This program is being offered by the National Humanities Center, and it’s an alliance between the National Humanities Center and Google that is intended to broaden the range of voices  to include humanistic scholars so that we have people with different backgrounds, training and disciplinary perspectives engaging on the issue,” Escobar-Lemmon said. “That way, it’s not just those who are writing the code that tells these machines how to talk to each other. It’s people who are thinking about what it means to be human and how humanity can benefit from this technology.”

The second objective is to create a learning curriculum directly addressing these issues. Texas A&M’s philosophy department was tasked with developing the course curriculum. Emily Brady, professor of philosophy and Susanne M. and Melbern G. Glasscock Director’s Chair, feels that Texas A&M’s past curricula makes the department more than qualified for this unique opportunity.

“The philosophy department is really well positioned and certainly, it was an important part of the application that we had to submit to the National Humanities Center to be awarded this funding,” Brady said. “They’re well positioned already to offer a humanities oriented course because they already have a lot of expertise in this area. There are scholars in the philosophy department who study applied ethics, ethics of technology, and ethics in relation to issues in engineering and computer science. Already, the department of philosophy has a very popular course in ethics in engineering that is taught jointly with the College of Engineering.”

Brady is optimistic about the impact this program will have not only on students, but society as a whole.

“I think that it’s a fantastic curriculum design project because it’s thinking about the concept of responsibility and how that relates to questions about the role of artificial intelligence in society,” Brady said. “It will certainly benefit students by enabling them to understand the role of technology in society better, so they will grasp ethical questions posed by advancements in science and ethical questions that arise as particular technological and scientific advancements take place. It’s a really interesting way of trying to think about how the humanities and sciences can work together to understand the role of artificial intelligence in society. It will benefit both sides through learning about each other’s research and methods.”

Theodore George, department head and professor of philosophy, said the course is currently in the process of being developed with consultation from experts across the country, but is expected to be completed by the end of the calendar year. Once it has been approved by the university, the course titled “Responsible Artificial Intelligence” will be available for all undergraduate students to take.

This article by Kira Schwarz originally appeared on the College of Liberal Arts website.

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