Thinking Machines: an Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
Can a computer be intelligent? That is, can the abilities of the human mind be reproduced by computer hardware and software? Dating to the origins of computing, the question of artificial intelligence is among the central problems of the modern age, its ramifications impacting not only computer science and adjacent fields of cognitive science and philosophy of mind, but also long-standing conceptions of human freedom and dignity. Is an autonomous thinking machine possible? What would distinguish it, as a moral subject, from a human?
In this course, students will examine the basic questions, concepts and results of AI science and theory. We’ll begin with the foundational work of Alan Turing, including the Turing Test (described in his famous paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”) and Church-Turing thesis. From Turing we’ll examine subsequent AI theory, including the system symbol hypothesis and the computational theory of mind, which was the template for AI research and thinking for much of the second half of the 20th century. We’ll study, too, an alternative paradigm for AI—neural networking and “deep learning”—and its sundry applications for fields ranging from natural language processing to medicine to autonomous vehicles. Readings will include seminal essays by Turing, John Searle, and Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts, and selections from Jack Copeland’s Artificial Intelligence: A Philosophical Introduction, Margaret Boden’s AI: Its Nature and Future, and Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig’s Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, among other works.
Course ScheduleTuesday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
April 06 — April 27, 2021