Curious about the power and potential of artificial intelligence and how innovators will be held accountable for their use of it? Other people are too. See how we're answering these concerns here at Concordia.

In the midst of rising interest in and demand for artificial intelligence (AI), universities are struggling to figure out how to ensure their study of AI is infused with an ethical mindset.

It’s no secret that AI holds great power, so how do we ensure that the power is used wisely and for good?

Interest in artificial intelligence was rekindled in the mid-twentieth century following Alan Turing’s rumination on machines and their potential ability to think. Today, according to SAS, artificial intelligence is understood as a machine’s capability “to learn from experience, adjust to new inputs, and perform human-like tasks.” For example, artificial intelligence enables technology like self-driving cars.

But as strides continue forward in AI innovation, the public’s fears are also surfacing. Some fear the power it holds, largely due to Hollywood’s misconstrued portrayals of it. Others fear its intelligence and the possible job loss that could occur should its technology replace the need for human labor. Amidst these fears is a general distrust as questions of ethical approach and future application abound; who will hold AI builders responsible?

The fears, though they may be somewhat unfounded, are not entirely without merit. For without proper understanding of AI and its application potential, the public is left to fill in the gaps with often misunderstood and caricatured depictions.

Perhaps the answer to both the fears and the question of ethics is education.

Concordia’s Commitment to Ethics

Here at Concordia, we’re excited to engage with the topic of artificial intelligence and consider all the transformational possibilities for its application. From the very first time AI was added to the curriculum, we have been focused on ensuring that our both our approach and engagement with the topic are ethical.

We started by making the study of AI available to every single student on campus.

“For the past 25 years, we have focused on ensuring that every student at Concordia is exposed to the idea and has a chance to learn the basics of AI,” said Dr. Gary Locklair, professor of computer science.

Because a Concordia education is built on the liberal arts, every student participates in the Concordia Core—a group of intro classes covering a myriad of themes like faith, society and culture, communication and language, and more. The goal is to help students approach their focused field of study with a well-rounded and informed worldview. One such class that is available to students through the Core is the Foundations of Computer Science course. This course features a section on artificial intelligence where students are taught what AI is, what it’s capable of, and how Christians ought to interact with it.

As Dr. Locklair said, “We believe that every free citizen should understand AI.”

Related: Is a liberal arts education even worth it anymore?

Our students begin their education with a strong liberal arts foundation where ethics is built into every conversation and every lesson. As other universities struggle to interpret or apply ethics to a certain topic, here at Concordia, it’s the very fiber making up every single course and idea.

“While many believe that ethics is determining right and wrong, we can use scripture and the wisdom of Bonhoeffer to show that ethics isn’t determining right versus wrong, but ethics is focusing on the Good, God Himself,” Locklair said.

This Lutheran, Christian worldview helps to inform how we approach our work and our study. Consequently, it influences how we view AI, how we teach it, and how we help students to learn it. And we’re excited to anticipate and be a part of all the good that AI can offer to help solve problems for people.

Are you interested in using technology for the good of others? Check out Master of Science in Computer Science.

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