Study the relationship of technology, knowledge, and ethics in today’s society

For students who are interested in the social sciences and humanities, the Humanity in a Digital World program will study the ethical and social dimensions of new and emerging technologies including artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, and virtual and augmented reality. Over the course of the students will learn about the promise and peril of these technologies, the ways in which they can enhance and save lives but also the ways in which they can exacerbate injustice and undermine our autonomy. At the same time, they will develop core ethical and critical reasoning skills!

Students will begin with spirited discussion of the values expressed through, and created by, human technologies. We’ll start by looking at the issue of autonomous cars and the possibility that they might have to make decisions about who lives or who dies in a crash. This will serve as a vehicle for discussion of ethical theories and important methods in moral philosophy that students will employ throughout the course. Students will then take up a range of issues and engage with a variety of guest speakers from across the humanities grappling with the challenges raised by emerging technologies. Students will learn, for example, how machine learning tools work and how they often result in biased decision-making. They will learn how personalization of search results and ads can lead to information bubbles and echo chambers and ask what this might mean for democracy and interpersonal relationships. Students will explore virtual worlds and ask whether virtual reality is as valuable as the real world. Students will also learn to create and run computer simulations to test hypotheses about the world. For example, students might create a simulation of climate or other resource negotiations to see what kinds of factors generate agreement or which factors undermine agreement. We will then talk about when to trust such simulations, when they can be a tool for thinking about the world outside the simulation.

Learning Outcomes

AI, Big Data, and Machine Learning

Students will learn the fundamentals of emerging technologies that will shape our future. Understanding how these technologies work is essential to evaluating how to integrate them into human life in a way that realizes their promise while avoiding unethical outcomes.

Interdisciplinary Perspective

Students will learn how different disciplines understand and tackle the social and ethical challenges raised by technology. In addition to being lead by a philosopher, visitors to the class might include faculty from law, history, english, criminal justice, and philosophy, politics, and economics.

Develop understanding of complex phenomena via modeling techniques

Students will learn to model interactions between individuals and how such models can be used to predict the outcomes of wide-scale interactions between people. For example, they will learn to model decision-making about climate change as a prisoner’s dilemma and explore what this means for our capacity to solve collective action problems.

Core philosophical and ethical reasoning skills

Students will learn how to construct valid arguments, how to reason inductively or probabilistically, and how to evaluate arguments based on these reasoning types.

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Program Tuition

The program tuition is $1,995. This includes: program tuition, course materials, lunch daily, and limited social activities as COVID policies allow

About Northeastern University

Northeastern is a top ranking experiential research university that prides itself on academic rigor, a diverse and talented population of students and faculty, and a powerful learning model that combines the classroom experience with hands-on work experience.

Contact Us

Questions? Contact us at (617) 373-2200 or [email protected]