FSEM 198, Fall 2003:
Writing Assignment 2;
Final Writing Assignment
AS YOU KNOW, there are three writing assignments in this course, in addition to the group project. This page describes the second and third of the writing assignments.
Second Writing Assignment
The second writing assignment is due at the beginning of class on Tuesday, November 18. The paper should be in double-spaced format and should be about 3 or 4 pages long. You'll have an opportunity to rewrite the paper if you are not satisfied with your grade on the first version. This paper counts for 15% of your final grade for the course.
For this paper, you can use any of the readings from the course as references. You can add some other references if you like, but you are not required to do so. In any case, the paper should be based primarily on the assigned readings for the course. Here is the assignment:
The title of this course is Mind and Machine. The central questions of the course are: To what extent is the mind a machine? And to what extent can a machine have a mind? Write a paper that explores the reactions to these questions of several of the authors that you have encountered in the course. Use quotes from the readings to illustrate your argument. You are not being asked to give your own opinion about the correct answers to the questions. Rather, you are to analyze the opinions of the authors as revealed in their work. Try to present a variety of views.
Final Writing Assignment
The final writing assignment for the course is due at the regularly scheduled final examination period for this course, Friday, December 19, at 8:30 AM. (You can turn it in earlier if you like; you are not required to be present for the final exam period.)
The final paper is worth 20% of your grade for the course. It should be about five or six double-spaced pages long. Your bibliography for the paper must include several non-Web sources (not including things that we read for the course). You should start working on the research for the paper soon, in case you need to use interlibrary load to get some of your sources. When you are looking for sources, I suggest that you ask the librarians for help in using the various resources that are available in the library.
There is no specific assigned topic for the final project. You should select a topic related to the course and get my approval before you begin working on it. The topic might be inspired by class readings, discussion, or presentations, but this is not required. (You should, however, avoid doing a paper related to your own presentation topic, unless it goes significantly beyond what you covered in your original paper on the topic.) Here are some ideas to get you started:
- You might do a paper on the current state of some AI technology. For example: Industrial Robots. Speech recognition technology. Facial recognition using computer vision. Techniques for email filtering. AIBO, Sony's robot dog. AI for space exploration. AI players in video games.
- You might want to learn more about one of the more colorful central people in computers and AI, such as John von Neumann or Marvin Minsky. You might want to learn more about Alan Turning. Look at the conflict between Hubert Dreyfus and the AI community.
- You could look in more detail at the functioning of the brain and how researchers have learned about it. For example look at MRI and PET studies of brain activity. Write about split brain research. Write about current theories about autism, which some people now believe is an inability on the part of the autistic person to model the cognitive state of other people. Look at people who can do amazing feats of mental arithmetic. Look at the visual system of the brain, which is understood in some detail.
- You could write about the cognitive revolution in psychology and the move to computational models as explanations of human cognition.
- Since we have talked about mathematics, you might do a paper on mathematics and meaning -- the difference between following rules and understanding. (You might be able to get some help from Dana Olanoff in the math department about this, or from a retired professor, Ann Oaks.)
- Pick one of the nine objections to AI that Turing discusses in his original paper on AI, and write about how that objection has played out in the half century since the paper was published.
- Write a paper about the nature of creativity in people and/or machines. If you want to be more specific than that, you could look at AI and art or AI and music. For example, Aaron is the name of a famous AI program that draws (there is a book about it called Aaron's code by Pamela McCordick). And EMI is the name of a famous program that composes music (there are several books and articles about it by David Cope, the author of the program).
- Write about Frankenstein and AI. Or compare the Frankenstein theme to modern science fiction about AI. Or find some other interesting angle on the topic of AI in science fiction.
- Look at the history of "automata." An automaton is a machine that acts, to some extent, on its own. A computer is a type of automaton. A self-directed robot is the ultimate automaton. People have been interested in automata for thousands of years. Pamela McCordick's book Machines Who Think has a nice historical overview of the topic.
This is not meant to be a complete list of possibility topics. You can develop a topic based on one of these suggestions, or you can choose an entirely different topic on your own.