With so many prominent scientists warning about the dangers of rogue artificial intelligence, and so many ethical concerns coming down the pike in A.I. research and computer science generally, how can computer experts educate themselves? By reading science fiction books.

That's the conclusion of a new paper (PDF) called "Teaching AI Ethics Using Science Fiction," written by three academics who organized a class last year in Science Fiction and Computer Ethics. They say that science fiction is perfect for considering ethical issues for a couple of reasons:

One, the use of futuristic or alien settings allows students to detach from political preconceptions and experience the dilemmas of plot and characters as something fresh.

Two, it has so far proved popular with the students. They have perceived that the course would be a chance to get credit for something they enjoy but have not found time to do while in college/graduate school: read and watch science fiction.


But which science fiction books do they recommend teaching to computer scientists? Here's their list:

The Jazz by Melissa Scott. "The novel raises many ethical issues of parental responsibility for underage hacking, and more generally of society's obligations to vulnerable users. The plot is driven by a teenager hacking into a movie studio's system and stealing code which the studio executive is desperate to recover. Ultimately, we learn the meaning of the stolen software. It predicts audience reactions to movie elements, and drives the "creative" process at that studio. This raises questions about the appropriate role of AI in the arts."

Plus The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, which "raises red flags about the ethics of AI-driven education." Plus Extras by Scott Westerfeld, Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, and The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, which "raises important issues about AI practitioners taking over human expertise and automating professions." And finally, The Circle by Dave Eggers, which "rather melodramatically considers the possible consequences of ubiquitous monitoring."


They also like the movie Modern Times, starring Charlie Chaplin. Read the whole paper here. [via Guardian]

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