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Sci-fi rock star Ron Moore of Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and Caprica, is now confirmed for Nov. 21!
Worried about missing the first lectures? No problem! We've got them on video available to all registered students!
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Show up for class, and turn in your homework on time!

Course Summary

More than most emerging fields, the history of Artificial Intelligence has been characterized by passionate debates. Is it merely clever programming, or an expedition into the fundamental nature of intelligence? Will machines ever be conscious? Will robots assist or enslave us? Can self-driving cars be legally responsible for their actions? And most important, how can we chart a humane and beneficial future pervaded by this pivotal technology? This course recounts the history of AI and explores the major controversies through a series of classroom discussions, each in preparation for a lively debate by prominent historical figures and cutting-edge researchers in the field.

The goal of CS22 is to equip you with the intellectual tools, ethical foundation, and psychological framework to successfully navigate the coming age of intelligent machines.

Course Stats

Grades: Pass/No Credit only
Credits: 2
Lectures: 2 x 1 hour per week
Reading: 1 hour per week
Essays: 1 page per week

Course Information

Instructor:     Jerry Kaplan

Course assistants:

Contact:     Please email for all questions.

Prerequisites:   None. All interested undergraduate and graduate students are welcome.

Map:     Where on earth is Braun Corner? Ask a Geology major or click here to find out.

Lecture Videos:     Missed a lecture? Click here to see the show. (Valid SUnet ID required.)

Preliminary Schedule

Date Topic Reading Essay Question Invited Speaker(s) Notes
Week 1
Sep 24, 26
The History of AI none none Nils Nilsson, Professor Emeritus, Stanford Confirmed
Week 2
Oct 1, 3
Upload or Die:
Identity and the Concept of Self
"Can Machines and Animals be Persons?", Justin Leiber, 1985 Would you step into the Star Trek transporter? Brad Templeton, Singularity University, Electronic Frontier Foundation Confirmed
Week 3
Oct 8, 10
Reasoning or Seasoning:
Symbolic Inference vs. Machine Learning
"The Physical Symbol System Hypothesis: Status and Prospects", Nils Nilsson, 2007 You've been kidnapped in Algiers. Who would you rather have look for you - Sherlock Holmes or Spiderman? Michael Genesereth (Stanford, Computer Science) vs. Adam Coates (Indiana U., Visiting Scholar) Confirmed
Week 4
Oct 15, 17
Meet the New Boss:
The Economics of Intelligent Automation
"Fixing the Digital Economy", Jaron Lanier, New York Times, 2013 You've got a part-time hourly job writing a news summaries for your local town paper. You delegate the task to a program that you wrote. How much should you get paid? (See for more details.) Jaron Lanier
NOTE: Actual speaking date is Tues, Oct. 22
Week 5
Oct 22, 24
Never Mind:
The Case Against Artificial Intelligence
"Minds, Brains, and Programs", Searle, 1980 AND "Understanding, Orientations, and Objectivity", Winograd, 2002 Can zombies collaborate?
(See for more details.)
John Searle (UC Berkeley, Philosophy) vs. Terry Winograd (Stanford, Computer Science) Confirmed
Week 6
Oct 29, 31
Pay no Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain:
Anthropomorphism in AI
Should we permit robots to provide emotional support and companionship for the elderly? How or why is this different from robotic comfort toys for children? (Tuesday) Lucy Bradshaw, SVP Maxis Studio and Ray Mazza, Lead Designer, SIMS group, Electronic Arts
(Thursday) David Hanson, Founder, Hanson Robotics
Week 7
Nov 5, 7
The Devil Made Me Do It:
Robot Crime and Punishment
"How Should the Law Think About Robots?", Neil M.Richards and William Smart You loan your autonomous car to a friend to get to school. On the way it runs a red light and injures a pedestrian. How would you apportion responsibility, if at all, between you, your friend, the dealer who sold you the car, the manufacturer, and/or the AI programmer? Daniel Siciliano
Stanford Law School
Week 8
Nov 12, 14
Designing Skynet:
Computational Ethics and Military Applications of AI
Moral Predators: The Duty to Employ Uninhabited Aerial Vehicles, Bradley Jay Strawser Are Predator drones a moral wrong or a moral imperative? Dan Kaufman (DARPA) and Patrick Lin (Ethics and Emerging Sciences Group, Cal Poly SLO) Confirmed
Week 9
Nov 19, 21
Don't Touch that Dial:
AI in Popular Media
What do actors typically do differently when portraying a robot instead of a person? What are these differences meant to communicate? Ron Moore, Writer/Director/Producer of Star Trek; Battlestar Galactica; Caprica Confirmed
Week 10
Dec 3, 5
Get an Artificial Life:
A Future History of AI

Course Structure and Policies


Each week will consist of a lecture by the teacher (typically Tuesday) and a presentation or debate (typically Thursday) by one or more invited experts.


You should read each week's assignment in advance of the first class. This should take you at most one hour.


Each week you will submit one essay consisting of two sections, a total of not more than one page. The first section will be your preliminary thoughts on the week's assigned topic, to be written prior to completing the week's reading and attending the lectures. Write it, but don't turn it in yet.

The second section is an update on your thoughts about the week's topic, after having completed the reading and attended the lectures.

How to submit your homework: We will be using Coursework (a Stanford system) for collecting, grading, and providing feedback on assignments. To submit your completed assignment (i.e. a single file containing one essay with two short sections), first go to the web site and log in using your SUNet ID. Find the course (you can search for CS-22 or SymSys-22). Click on "Assignments" in the left menu. Find the assignment #, then follow the directions to upload your file. Please format it as a text file, .doc, .docx, or .pdf. You can check back anytime to see it if has been read, graded, etc.

Homework is due on or before 11:59PM Friday of each week.

The purposes of this structure is to encourage you to capture your preliminary thoughts about the week's topic in advance, then to consider if you changed your view or learned something new from the reading and lectures. There are no 'right' or 'wrong' answers, an honest report is sufficient.

Late Policy

You have five "late passes" you can use for homework. You can use each late pass to grant yourself a 24 hour extension for turning in homework. You can use multiple late passes on a single homework assignment.

In the unlikely event that you use up all of your late passes, any further late homework not approved and excused in advance by the staff in writing will result in a grade of No Credit!

Honor Code

You are encouraged to talk about the homework with other students, but your final essay submissions must be your own original work.