Torrey, Lisa (St. Lawrence University) | Johnson, Karen (St. Lawrence University) | Sondergard, Sid (St. Lawrence University) | Ponce, Pedro (St. Lawrence University) | Desmond, Laura (St. Lawrence University)
In recent years, the notion that computers and robots will attain superhuman levels of intelligence in the next few decades, ushering in a new "posthuman" era in evolutionary history, has gained widespread attention among technology enthusiasts, thanks in part to books such as Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity Is Near. This paper describes an introductory-level AI course designed to examine this idea in an objective way by exploring the field of AI as it currently is, in addition to what it might become in the future. An important goal of the course is to place these ideas within the broader context of human and cosmic evolution. The course is aimed at undergraduate liberal arts students with no prior background in science or engineering.
The traditional CS1 syllabus focuses almost entirely on elementary programming concepts and leaves little time to explore the broad discipline of computer science, including the many exciting developments in artificial intelligence. Hence, some students who take the CS1 course develop the misconception that computer science involves little more than programming, and they decide not to study it any further. We have developed a unified approach to CS1 that integrates aspects of the traditional CS0 and CS1 syllabi. This approach draws examples from AI to help illustrate the enormous potential for and broad societal impact of advances in computer science.
Faculty at liberal arts colleges are often challenged to offer a quality education to their students, complete with opportunities for undergraduate research. To guard against a curriculum that is too theoretical, students want to see applications of their course work and tangible results of their efforts. Like all computer science educators, we want to attract students to our discipline. The use of robotics can often be part of the answer in each of these realms.