Course: CS 189: Autonomous Robot Systems
Course Level: Upper-level undergraduate
Course Description: "Building autonomous robotic systems requires making Robots that Observe, Reason, and Act. How does a robot make sense of the world from raw and noisy sensor inputs? How does it control its actions reliably and recover from failures? When does it need to reason about the world and when can it just react? How does it balance short-term problems versus long-term goals? How does it operate in a world where others (human and robots) exist? And how do we program a robot to achieve all these things? The goal of creating a robot is the goal of creating Embodied Artificial Intelligence. In this class we will study methodologies for achieving embodied AI through a hands-on and ground up approach of programming your own. (Course description from the 2018 Course Syllabus.)"
Module Topic: Robots and work
Module Author: Kate Vredenburgh
Semesters Taught: Spring 2018, Spring 2019
Module Overview: In this module, we consider the ethics of the increasing introduction of robots into the workplace. Robots play an increasingly important role in the workplace, a trend that is expected to continue. The increasing automation of tasks in the workplace raises ethical and political questions, both about the changing nature of the workplace and about the societal impacts of this increase in automation.
This module examines ethical questions around the changing nature of the workplace. In particular, it examines the following three ethical questions:
Connection to Course Technical Material: This module occurs near the end of the course. This allows students to bring the knowledge they have acquired about what kinds of tasks robots are good and bad at (given the state of modern robotics) to questions about how to design robot-including workplaces that provide valuable work to humans.
Key Philosophical Questions:
Key Philosophical Concepts:
Students are asked to read or watch all these materials before class. The first two provide philosophical background for the class, and the third and fourth provide factual background for the class.
Depending on time and instructor preference, the class can end at step 4.
Students are shown a promotional video for Spyce, a local Boston restaurant that uses robots in food preparation. After watching the video, they are asked to discuss the following questions in small groups, followed by a full-class debrief: