Fordham, New York City's Jesuit University
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Fordham College at Lincoln Center

Department of Computer & Information Science


 Semester:  Spring, 2013
 Course Number:  CISC 4660 L01
 Course Title:  Minds, Machines, & Society
 Instructor:  Dr. Robert K. Moniot
    Office LL 817-E, Phone (212) 636-6334
    Office hours: MW 10:00-11:00, 2:00-3:00
    RH Office JMH 340A, Phone (718) 817-5280
    (As chair of CIS, I will often be at RH on TRF)
    Other office hours by appointment
 Class Hours:  MW 11:30-12:45PM, Room LL 508
 Required Text:  None: there will be required readings of selected articles and book chapters.

Course Outline: Computers and information technology play increasingly important roles in modern society. Computers are not only indispensable as office tools in business and as entertainment and creativity centers in the home, but are also embedded in many everyday appliances and machines, including cars, cell phones, microwave ovens, copiers, etc. The Internet connects individuals across the world and has enabled whole new industries such as e-commerce, social networking, and blogging. Through the use of artificial intelligence, computers are becoming capable of performing tasks that were once the exclusive domain of thinking beings, such as interpreting speech, recognizing faces, and creating original art or music.

This course will begin with an examination of the current status of the science of computing, the development of artificial intelligence, and new applications of information technology. We will then explore possible directions that this technology may take in the future, and what impact these developments may have on society. We will examine the depictions of technology by the media and the technology industry, and compare these with the present reality and realistic future possibilities. An important element of our discussion will be the questions of what it means to be intelligent, and whether human-like artificial intelligence is likely, feasible, or even possible.

The course will be conducted in a seminar mode, oriented primarily around class discussion. In the second half of the semester, each student is expected to give a short (20-minute) presentation on the topic of her or his final paper.

It will not be necessary for the student to have any specialized training in computer or information science. Most of the issues can be understood without any detailed knowledge of the workings of the underlying technology. In any case, the analysis of these issues from a moral perspective is not dependent on their technological basis.

This course fulfills the core requirement of a Senior Values EP-4 Seminar. It is not applicable toward the major in Computer Science.

Course Objectives: At the end of this course, students will:

Protocol: Attendance is mandatory, and is graded, mainly on the extent to which students contribute to the discussion.

Grade will be based on class participation (15%), an in-class presentation (15%), a midterm paper (5-7 pages, 20%), four 2-3 page essays (10%), a final exam (15%), and a final research paper (10-12 pages, 25%). To pass the course each student must complete each of these components adequately. In particular, since attendance and participation are key elements of this class, each student must attend at least 2/3 of the class meetings, whether absences are excused or unexcused.

Late papers will be accepted, but with a penalty that increases with time. The essays will be based mainly on material discussed in class and on the assigned readings. The midterm and final papers must be based on research, and written in proper scholarly style, with references for all sources consulted. See the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers or similar work for guidelines on proper citation style. Academic integrity is very important to the mission of the university. Plagiarism or failure to properly cite sources will result in an F on the paper and may result in an F for the course.

If you believe that you have a disabling condition that may interfere with your ability to participate in the activities, coursework, or assessment of the object of this course, you may be entitled to accommodations. If so, please schedule an appointment to speak with me immediately or you may go to the Office of Disability Services (Room LL 207, x6282).

Schedule of Topics, Readings and Assignments:

M Jan 14:
What is a computer? Readings: Turing, Searle.
W Jan 16:
W Jan 23:
Turing test. Readings: Hofstadter. Essay 1 assigned: impressions of computers.
M Jan 28:
Popular images of computers. Readings: Weizenbaum, Turkle.
W Jan 30:
cont'd. Essay 1 due.
M Feb 4:
Visions of the future. Readings: Weiser, Gelernter. Proposal for midterm paper due.
W Feb 6:
cont'd. Essay 2 assigned: visions of the future.
M Feb 11:
W Feb 13:
Nanotechnology. Readings: Feynman, Joy, Drexler. Essay 2 due.
T Feb 19:
(Monday schedule.) cont'd. First draft of midterm paper due.
W Feb 20:
Cyborgs, transhumanism. Readings: Kurzweil, Franchi & Guezeldere. Essay 3 assigned: spiritual machines. Presentation proposal due.
M Feb 25:
W Feb 27:
Symbolic AI. Readings: Newell & Simon, Dreyfus & Dreyfus. Essay 3 due.
M Mar 4:
cont'd. Readings: Kroeker. Midterm research paper due.
W Mar 6:
Computational AI. Readings: Brooks. Essay 4 assigned: future of AI.
Mar 11-15 spring break
M Mar 18:
W Mar 20:
cont'd. Essay 4 due.
M Mar 25:
Student presentations 1 & 2. Proposal for research paper due.
W Mar 27:
Student presentations 3 & 4.
Mar 28-Apr 1 Easter recess
W Apr 3:
Student presentations 5 & 6.
M Apr 8:
Student presentations 7 & 8.
W Apr 10:
Student presentations 9 & 10.
M Apr 15:
Student presentations 11 & 12. First draft of research paper due.
W Apr 17:
Student presentations 13 & 14.
M Apr 22:
Student presentations 15 & 16.
W Apr 24:
Student presentations 17 & 18.
M Apr 29:
Student presentation 19.
W May 1:
Catch-up, discussion.
F May 3:
(first reading day) Research paper due.
M May 13:
Final exam, 9:30 AM (tentative date).
(Note that this schedule may need to be adjusted slightly as the course progresses. Any changes will be announced in class and posted on the Blackboard web site.)


All of the following readings will be available on the Blackboard class web site.

Brooks, Rodney A., Intelligence Without Representation. Artificial Intelligence Journal vol. 47 (1991), pp. 139–159.

Drexler, K. Eric., Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, Anchor Books (1986). Chapter 1.

Dreyfus, Hubert L. & Stuart E. Dreyfus, Making a mind versus modeling the brain: artificial intelligence back at a branch point. Daedalus vol. 117, no. 1 (Winter 1988), pp. 15-43.

Feynman, Richard P., Plenty of room at the bottom. Talk given at American Physical Society meeting at Caltech (1959).

Franchi, Stefano and Gueven Guezeldere, eds. Mechanical Bodies, Computational Minds, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA (2005). Sections 10-11 of the chapter "Machinations of the Mind."

Gelernter, David H., Mirror Worlds, Oxford University Press (1991). Chapter 2.

Hofstadter, Douglas R., A Coffeehouse Conversation on the Turing Test. Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern, Basic Books (1985).

Joy, Bill, Why the future doesn't need us. Wired (April 2000).

Kroeker, Kirk L., Weighing Watson. Communications of the ACM vol. 54, no. 7 (July 2011), pp. 13-15.

Kurzweil, Ray, The Age of Spiritual Machines, Penguin, New York (1999). Excerpts from chapters 5-6, and all of chapter 9.

Newell, Allen & Herbert A. Simon, Computer Science as Empirical Inquiry: Symbols and Search. Communications of the ACM vol. 19, no. 3 (March 1976), pp. 113-126.

Searle, John R., Minds, brains and programs. Behavioral and Brain Sciences vol. 3, pp. 417-424 (1980).

Turing, Alan, Computing machinery and intelligence. Mind vol. 59, pp. 433-460 (1950).

Turkle, Sherry, The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit, Simon and Schuster, New York (1985). Chapter 1.

Weiser, Mark, The Computer for the 21st Century. Scientific American, vol. 265, no. 3 (September, 1991), pp. 94-104.

Weizenbaum, Joseph, Computer Power and Human Reason, W.H. Freeman, New York (1975). Chapter 6 and end-notes.

Robert Moniot 2013-01-11