FSEM 198, Fall 2004:
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. I am giving you plenty of advance notice about these assignments so that you can space out your work on them over the rest of the term. It is never too early to start thinking about your final project topic!
Second Writing Assignment
The second writing assignment is due at the beginning of class on Tuesday, November 26. The paper should be in double-spaced format and should be about 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.
The general topic for the paper is "Moravec versus Dreyfus." You have read Moravec's ROBOT and Dreyfus' On the Internet, so you know that they have very different opinions about the nature and future of artificial intelligence. You should write a paper that compares their positions and discusses their evidence.
You will have to decide on the exact approach that you want to use for this topic. You might want to write a basic "compare and contrast" paper. You might be more interested in discussing the personal conflict between the pro- and anti-AI camps. You might want to argue that one side is right and the other is wrong. You might want to look for things that both sides agree on. It's up to you.
For this paper, you are required to use a selection of perspicuous quotes from both ROBOT and On the Internet. You can use other sources in addition to these, if you want. Both Moravec and Dreyfus have written other things, and other people have written about them. There are other people with similar views that you might want to bring into the picture. You might find other sources useful in evaluating the evidence offered by Dreyfus and Moravec. Other readings from the course might throw light on the issues. Once again, the exact design of the paper is up to you.
Final Writing Assignment
The final writing assignment for the course is due at the regularly scheduled final examination period for this course, Wednesday, December 15, at 7:00 PM. (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 6 double-spaced pages long. Your bibliography for the paper must include several non-Web sources, not including things that we read for the course. (Material that is published in hard copy, such as newspaper and magazine articles, and also appears on the web can be counted as "non-Web", as long as it is referenced to the original published source.) 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. The CYC project.
- 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.
- 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.