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Cursus: SOW-BKI248
Societal Impact of AI
Cursus informatieRooster
Studiepunten (ECTS)6
CategorieB2 (Tweede jaar bachelor)
Aangeboden doorRadboud Universiteit; Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen; Artificial Intelligence;
Contactpersoon van de cursus
prof. dr. W.F.G. Haselager
Overige cursussen docent
prof. dr. W.F.G. Haselager
Overige cursussen docent
dr. G. Mecacci
Overige cursussen docent
dr. G. Mecacci
Overige cursussen docent
SEM1  (05-09-2022 t/m 27-01-2023)
Inschrijven via OSIRISJa
Inschrijven voor bijvakkersJa
The student will be able to
  1. Display general knowledge of the philosophical foundations and implications of influential paradigms in AI and CNS, as well as their societal and ethical implications regarding topics such as autonomy, agency and privacy. She will be able to present a well-informed opinion concerning some major philosophical and societal issues surrounding recent developments in cognitive science, namely:
    1. the topic of ‘genuine AI’ and the debates about the Turing Test and the Chinese room,
    2. the societal impact of ICT,
    3. the relation between traditional AI and CNS with Embodied Embedded Cognition,
    4. the implications of recent developments in CNS for our understanding of conscious will,
    5. the potential implications of neurotechnology for personality and society,
    6. the ethical, legal and societal implications of current advances in robotics,
    7. professionalism in AI research and its applications (scientific integrity)
  2. Discuss current topics at the interplay between science and society, evaluating challenges and potential interventions. The student will be able to work in a team with constructive and goal oriented attitude. She will also be able to provide proper feedback and substantial contributions to her peers’ work, according to the standards of the scientific community.
  3. Express original arguments and opinions in writing according to the accepted norms for scientific publications. The student will also be able to effectively digest articles in the relevant journals, report on past and current research, and entertain an effective communication with specialists in AI and CNS, as well as with non-specialists.
  4. Display a critical scientific attitude towards research in general and AI in particular, i.e. by critically evaluating arguments, assumptions, abstract concepts and data. Students will also be able to integrate multidisciplinary knowledge and formulate theoretical research questions according to standard academic practice.
Cognitive science (sometimes also labeled as cognitive neuroscience, CNS) is an interdisciplinary approach to understand and model cognition and behavior. The major disciplines are cognitive psychology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, philosophy of mind, linguistics, cognitive economics, anthropology and ethology. Increasingly, developments in these research areas affect everyday life, on a personal, interpersonal and societal level. During this course, we will focus specifically on how recent developments in cognitive psychology, artificial intelligence and neuroscience raise various practical issues for individuals and society (see list of topics). Moreover, we will apply a philosophical approach (conceptual analysis, ethical discussion, identification and clarification of intuitions, basic assumptions and potential societal implications) in order to address the fundamental questions underlying these practical issues. Finally, we will practice how cognitive scientists could (and should) contribute to the public debate, thereby assisting responsible decision making about (un)desired research directions and applications of resulting technologies such as cognitive enhancement, robots and brain-computer interfaces.

Topics will include:
  • The possibility of 'genuine AI' and the debates about the Turing Test and the Chinese room (Will computers and robots ever be 'really' intelligent? Will they become ‘superintelligent’?)
  • The relation between traditional AI and embodied embedded cognition (Are we our brains, or is cognition embodied and embedded?)
  • The implications of recent neuroscientific developments for our understanding of conscious free will (Are we free to do what we want? What would it mean to be free from your brain?)
  • The potential implications of new neurotechnologies for the individual and society (Would you practice cognitive enhancement on a daily basis?)
  • The societal effects of ICT (How will the future versions of smartphones & social webforums change the way you interact with other people?)
  • The impact of robots on human life and society (Will robots take control of the world or will we marry them?)
  • Professionalism in AI research and its applications (How can you, as a practicing cognitive scientist, deal responsibly with the above topics?)
You will apply the acquired skills to address the various topics mentioned above (i.e. by analysing concepts, clarifying intuitions and basic assumptions, analysing empirical research results and formulating potential implications). Finally, you will consider how, as a responsible professional in AI, CNS or Psychology, you could contribute to the public debate, thereby assisting stakeholders in responsible decision-making about research directions and applications of resulting technologies.
These topics will be discussed on the basis of several important (notorious; infamous) papers and additional background literature.
Students will need to have completed at least one full year of prior study in the field of Cognitive Science, Artificial Intelligence, Psychology or Philosophy.
Mid-term (45%) CIRRUS test, end-term (45%) oral examination, and intermediate-evaluations in workgroups (10%).
A resit is possible for the mid- and end-term examinations, not for the intermediate-evaluations.
Please sign up for any course at (, it is obligatory.

Students who are enrolled for a course are also provisionally registered for the exam. Pay attention: participation in the exam is only possible if all relevant conditions laid down in the EER are met. Students who, after being checked are found not to meet these conditions, shall be excluded from the exam. In that case participation is only possible on special grounds and with a permit written by the student counselor. 

Resit: Manual register at ( until five working days prior to the date of the exam. No delayed registration is possible. 

We urge you to always read the course information on Brightspace. There are courses for which you are obliged to register for tutorials and/or practicals.
Aanbevolen materiaal
For this course there is a reader with about 20 journal articles or book chapters. The selection changes every year to remain up-to-date with the current societal debate. Here are some representative examples from the past years:
De Graaf, M. M. A., & Malle, B. F. (2017). How People Explain Action (and Autonomous Intelligent Systems Should Too). AAAI 2017 Fall Symposium on “AI-HRI,” 1–8.
Dehane, S., Lau, H., Kouider, S. (2017). What is consciousness, and could machines have it? Science.
Thompson, C. (2018) How to teach AI some common sense. Wired,
Aho, B. & Duffield, R (2020). Beyond surveillance capitalism: Privacy, regulation and big data in Europe and China, Economy and Society, 49:2, 187-212, DOI: 10.1080/03085147.2019.1690275 
Oyer, P. (2020). The gig economy. IZA World of Labor 2020: 471
Birhane, A.,  and Van Dijk, J. (2020). Robot Rights? Let’s talk about human welfare instead: Proceedings of AIES 2020, New York, February 2020.
Véliz, C. (2021). Moral zombies: why algorithms are not moral agents. AI and Society, 36(2), 487–497.


Attendance required
Partial Exam 1
GelegenhedenBlok SEM1, Blok SEM1

Partial Exam 2
GelegenhedenBlok SEM1, Blok SEM2

GelegenhedenBlok SEM1

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