IntroSems quarters and schedules subject to change--check back often. Go to Re-Approaching Stanford for weekly updates on Academic Year 2020-21.
Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students
Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence
Is it really possible for an artificial system to achieve genuine intelligence: thoughts, consciousness, emotions? What would that mean? How could we know if it had been achieved? Is there a chance that we ourselves are artificial intelligences? Would artificial intelligences, under certain conditions, actually be persons? If so, how would that affect how they ought to be treated and what ought to be expected of them? Emerging technologies with impressive capacities already seem to function in ways we do not fully understand. What are the opportunities and dangers that this presents? How should the promises and hazards of these technologies be managed?
Philosophers have studied questions much like these for millennia, in scholarly debates that have increased in fervor with advances in psychology, neuroscience, and computer science. The philosophy of mind provides tools to carefully address whether genuine artificial intelligence and artificial personhood are possible. Epistemology (the philosophy of knowledge) helps us ponder how we might be able to know. Ethics provides concepts and theories to explore how all of this might bear on what ought to be done. We will read philosophical writings in these areas as well as writings explicitly addressing the questions about artificial intelligence, hoping for a deep and clear understanding of the difficult philosophical challenges the topic presents.
No background in any of this is presupposed, and you will emerge from the class having made a good start learning about computational technologies as well as a number of fields of philosophical thinking. It will also be a good opportunity to develop your skills in discussing and writing critically about complex issues.