Programming Humanity (IPHS 200)

Artificial intelligence is poised to surpass humans in intellectual abilities that we often associate with being human. What are the implications for how we think about digital humanities? Can we program humanity by employing AI to generate music, analyze vast quantities of literary text, or produce great visual works of art? Or will humans be programmed through predictive policing, manipulations of social media, and domestic surveillance? Can the non-profit OpenAI build an AI to benefit humanity, or will the prophecies of Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk (who all claim AI as the greatest existential threat to humanity) come true?

This course will bridge the gap between humanities and technology in both a theoretical and practical manner. Each week we will present a fundamental technology like data visualization, social media hacking or machine learning through both lecture and hands-on labs. In parallel, we will contextualize our understanding of new technologies with discussions of the larger social impact and ethical dilemmas through case studies like computational literary analysis, digital profiling for predictive policing or issues stemming from potential broad structural economic unemployment. The broader goal of the course is to understand technologies driving seismic social change in order to be able to speak with an informed voice.

This is an introductory survey course with no prerequisites. It is designed for both humanities students seeking to understand technology and technology-oriented students seeking to understand the larger social and ethical issues surrounding technology.

AI for the Humanities (IPHS 300)

"Why isn’t AI a branch of mathematics?" Norvig and Russell ask in their seminal textbook "Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach." "The first answer," they explain, "is that AI from the start embraced the idea of duplicating human faculties such as creativity, self-improvement, and language use"(18).

We explore AI from this humanist perspective by building a foundation to understand the creativity, self-improvement and language at the core of the discipline. Our approach blends the conceptual with hands-on exploration and application. We think through the humanist-centered theory and practice of artificial intelligence and machine learning from a liberal arts perspective that is highly interdisciplinary in nature. To that end, the course will touch on domains intertwined with AI like cognitive science and language and linguistics.

Textual analysis will receive our major attention and will provide an ideal foundation for literature students interested in computational approaches to literature. However we will also explore a wide range of textual applications that will be of interest to a broader range of students: textual analytics that help us explore disciplines like economics, politics, sociology, cultural studies and psychology. The last weeks of the course will move to image and sound by building on previous skills acquired from textual analysis.