UGS 302 Freshman Seminar
Mirrors on Ourselves: Attempts to Build Artificial People

Elaine Rich
Fall, 2013

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Lecture Slides 


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Course Description

Throughout history, we, people, have been fascinated by ourselves. Our fascination has led us to imagine that we could create artificial copies of ourselves. Early legends document those dreams.  Our literature, movies and art embody more of those imaginings. As soon as we had technology, we began to use it to realize our dreams.  And now the modern computer gives us the opportunity to build agents that have begun to rival people in performing some kinds of "intelligent" tasks. The goal of this course is to explore our attempts to build artificial people, starting with early legends and culminating with modern artificial intelligence.  We’ll end with a discussion of the question, “Suppose that eventually we can build artificial people, should we?”

Course Topics

    • Legends, stories and plays
    • Movies
  • Automata in the age of technology before computers
    • Clocks and other early automata
    • Artificial voices
    • Early hoaxes
    • Anything can be represented in binary
    • Many things can be described using some kind of logical formalism
    • Statistical inference
    • The perils of exponential growth
    • There exist undecidable problems
    • What is it and how will we recognize it?
    • The importance of knowledge
    • Representing knowledge
    • Search
    • Language
    • Common sense
    • Expert systems
    • Learning
    • Machines that beat us at our own games
    • Modern role playing games: blending imagination with science
    • Our closest relatives - chimpanzees
    • What is consciousness?
    • Art and music
    • Cyborgs: merging human and machine
    • The Luddite argument: how will people eat if their jobs disappear?
    • Will smart machines replace us?
    • Who is liable for the behavior of artificially intelligent systems?

Contact Information

Elaine Rich -