Teaching AI Ethics to Engineering Students

The importance of ethics in artificial intelligence is increasing, and this must be reflected in the contents of computer engineering curricula, since the researchers and engineers who develop artificial intelligence technologies and applications play a key part in anticipating and mitigating their harmful effects. However, there are still many open questions concerning what should be taught and how. In this paper we suggest an approach to building a syllabus for a course in ethics of artificial intelligence, make some observations concerning effective teaching methods and discuss some particular challenges that we have encountered. These are based on the pilot implementation of a new course that aimed to give engineering students a comprehensive overview of the ethical and legislative aspects of artificial intelligence, covering both knowledge of issues that the students should be aware of and skills that they will need in order to competently deal with those issues in their work. The course was well received by the students, but also criticized for its high workload. Substantial difficulties were experienced in trying to inspire the students to engage in discussions and debates among themselves, which may limit the effectiveness of the course in building the students’ ethical argumentation skills unless a satisfactory solution is found. Several promising ideas for future development of our teaching practices can be found in the literature.