AI Ethics and Policy Course Launched at Georgia Tech

Posted July 24, 2023

Is it possible for an artificial intelligence (AI) system to be neutral or value-free? What does it mean for an algorithm to be just? How will AI affect privacy? Democracy? Inequality and social justice?

If any of these questions pique your interest, the new AI Ethics and Policy course in Georgia Tech's School of Public Policy should be on your radar. 

Associate Professor Justin Biddle will teach the newly developed class, in which he prepares students to think critically about AI's impact on humanity and contribute to AI governance and policy. 

"We're still in the very early stages of developing governance systems for AI, but one of the major public policy questions moving forward will be how to regulate AI. This is a discussion that students in the future will be contributing to, or should be contributing to, in a significant way," Biddle said.  

To do so, students need to understand not just the technology but the many consequences, intended or not, that its deployment has on society. The course will be discussion-based around scholarly articles and current events, while the final month of the class is devoted to project work and a research paper on the ethical design of an AI system. Because the class is currently categorized as a special topics course, it doesn’t satisfy any general education attributes such as ethics. However, Biddle hopes to change this in the future.

"AI systems are value-laden because they're human creations," Biddle said. "Humans generate, design, develop, distribute, and monitor AI systems. Human decisions are made all along the way, and those human decisions, reflecting our values, impact AI systems in a very consequential way."

Biddle studies the ethics of emerging technologies and said he's become increasingly interested in AI over the years because of the growing controversies around AI biases and how it can have disparate impacts on different population groups. 

"I started collaborating with scientists and engineers at Georgia Tech, thinking about ways that AI systems could be designed ethically and responsibly, in a way that promotes the benefits but also avoids some of the risks and harms that we were seeing with many AI systems," Biddle said.

Biddle is on the leadership team of the Ethics, Technology, and Human Interaction Center (ETHICx), a collaboration between the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts and the College of Computing. He also works with the Georgia Artificial Intelligence Manufacturing Technology Corridor, a statewide initiative combining artificial intelligence and manufacturing innovations with transformational workforce and outreach programs.

As AI becomes increasingly pervasive in our lives — from recommending movies on Netflix to determining whether or not we get a job — it also opens the door for biases, misinformation, and unintended consequences to creep in. 

"You might get shortlisted for a job, or you might be tossed out based on a decision of an algorithm," Biddle said. "We're interacting with algorithms all the time. All of us are. So, one could make the case that this is a general literacy issue that all students should have."

Take the Course

PHIL 4803: Special Topics: AI Ethics and Policy

Instructor: Justin Biddle, School of Public Policy

Schedule: TR 5:00 to 6:15, Clough 129

Description: This course will explore the ethical and philosophical dimensions of artificial intelligence (AI). AI – and related fields of data science and machine learning (ML) – are transforming the world in which we live. They have the potential to bring tremendous benefits, but they also involve risks, including risks of privacy harms; human rights violations; social injustice and inequality; alienation, and – according to some – human extinction. In this course, we will examine conceptual tools and frameworks that deepen our understanding of the ethical and philosophical issues associated with AI; we will probe these tools and frameworks in the context of current cases and challenges (including discussions of social media, bias, misinformation, surveillance, autonomous vehicles, machine consciousness, and others), and we will explore policies and standards that help us to realize our shared goals and values. 

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Associate Professor Justin Biddle will teach a course on AI and ethics.

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Contact For More Information

Di Minardi

Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts