Questions for Discussion

Under construction

Please refer to the Reading List for links and references.

The second compulsory assignment is a verbal presentation or panel debate on a given question or claim. In a debate, two students prepare a position and two students prepare a counter-position. In a presentation two students illuminate the question or position from different angles. In both cases, the students should use the literature to prepare their position. We look for a more scholarly approach than a casual pub conversation. However, the questions rarely have right and wrong answers; in most cases we face ethical dilemmas.

A presentation is expected to take 15-20 minutes plus questions and discussion. A debate is expected to start with introductory positions of 5-10 minutes per side, about 20 minutes of panel debate, and some time for questions ex auditorio.

A number of topics are presented below. You may propose your own. Groups of one or three are permissible if the numbers do not work out, but please avoid it if you can.

Deadline Form groups and select topic by Sunday 27 February.


AI is a threat to human life and society.

Reading (in order of priority)

  1. R&N (Sec. 1.5).
  2. Schaathun (2022)
  3. Dick: Do androids dream of electric sheep?
  4. Simon (1996:Ch. 6)

Can machines think?

Reading (in order of priority)

  1. Epstein (2009:Chapters 1 and 3)
  2. Weizenbaum (1976:Chapter 10)
  3. Heinlein: The Moon is a harsh Mistress

Is the human mind any different from a computer?

Reading (in order of priority)

  1. Epstein (2009:Chapters 1, 3, 4)
  2. Lucas 1961
  3. Weizenbaum (1976:Chapter 10)

What can computers do?

Material can be found in Epstein, Lucas, and Weizenbaum above, but for this particular angle it may be more useful to take ChatGPT or similar services and test its limits.

If a self-driving car causes a traffic accident, who’s to blame?

Can you blame the owner? The manufacturer?
Or is it just a random event?

You should probably start by laying out the possible hypotheses, and debate for and against each one of them.

  1. Andy Lau

What is it about Sophia?

Sophia is a robot granted citizen-ship in Saudi-Arabia.

  • What does citizenship mean?
    What does it mean when it is granted to a robot?
  • Review what has been published about Sophia’s functionality. In what way is she citizen-like or human-line?


  • wikipedia
  • Please use the references given in Wikipedia

What are the main challenges in AI Ethics?


  1. Jobin et al 2019
  2. R&N Chapter 28

How can we avoid the machines taking control?

R&N:51 call it a design flaw, if machines take control contrary to human interest. Is this really possible to avoid?
According to Simon note that design is an evolution. Final goals are incompatible with our limited ability to divine about the future.

Reading (in order of priority)

  1. R&N (Sec. 1.5).
  2. Schaathun (2022)
  3. Dick: Do androids dream of electric sheep?
  4. Simon (1996:Ch. 6)

What can social robots do? Are they viable?

Social robots interact with human beings.
Is this a viable venture? What (if any) human roles can be replaced by social robots?

Eastern Philosophy

This module is biased towards Western philosophy, drawing heavily on ideas developed in a long tradition of thought, rooted in Ancient Greek philosophy and the Judeo-Christian worldview. This is as it has to be. We are who we are, and there is no other tradition where the module convener would be qualified to convene the module.

However, a meeting with other traditions of thought would be very valuable, if someone would be up for the challenge. This is not an easy task, because we should be looking for scientific rigour, and not a superficial approach. However, if someone is familiar with philosophical traditions of other cultures, you are welcome to take any question suggested above or otherwise discussed in the module, and recast it within your own cultural frame?

How is the relationship between Man and Machine viewed in Indian philosophy? How is intelligence viewed in Chinese thought? What constitutes reason and rationality in Persian tradition? There are plenty of questions and plenty of viewpoints, and note that I have no idea about the answers what-so-every. Curiosity is all I can contribute.

Note that the task is scholarly. As a minimum, one has to point to scholarly references when citing the great thinkers. I do not expect references in a language I can read, but they need to be disclosed honestly and accurately.