Lesson 5: Our AI Code of Ethics
Grades 6-8 | Grades 9-12
In small groups, students conduct research using articles and videos that expose ethical pitfalls in an Artificial Intelligence (AI) area of their choice. Afterward, each group develops at least one solution-oriented principle that addresses their chosen area. These principles are then assembled into a class-wide “Our AI Code of Ethics” resource (e.g. a slide presentation, document, or webpage) for AI creators and legislators everywhere.
AI (artificial intelligence) is quickly, and in many ways quietly, becoming pervasive in our modern world. While we have not yet arrived at a “general” or “strong” AI capable of “thinking” like we do, recent technologies utilizing “narrow” or “weak” AI have made inroads in nearly every part of our daily lives. From healthcare and finance to social networks and virtual assistants, special-purpose AI has expanded into our economic, biological, political, and cultural contexts far more than most of us realize. Although AI has given us advances in efficiency, insight, and even entertainment, the use of AI can also result in problematic outcomes such as bias and misinformation. It is critical that everyone is aware of the pitfalls of AI in order to ensure that all current and future AI, be it narrow or general, serves us all.
Warm Up (10 mins)
Activity (40 mins)
Wrap Up (5 mins)
Students will be able to:
- Define artificial intelligence (AI) in their own words, using technologies they encounter in their daily lives as examples.
- Describe at least one example of an ethical issue pertaining to AI, along with its impact on society.
- Create at least one guiding principle that addresses an AI ethics issue.
- Prepare to share online one AI Ethics Research Areas handout per group.
- Print or prepare to share online one AI Ethics Research Reflection handout per group.
- Prepare a shareable web document, slide presentation, video template, or any other form of media to be used to comprise your class’ “Our AI Code of Ethics” resource.
- (Optional) Watch our How AI Works video series and prepare to share it with students after the lesson.
For the Teacher
- Our AI Code of Ethics [Template] - Slides
For the Students
- AI Ethics Research Areas - Student Handout
- AI Ethics Research Reflection - Student Handout
- How AI Works - Video Series
- Artificial Intelligence - the ability of machines to learn and problem-solve.
- Ethics - guidelines for good behavior.
Warm Up (10 mins)
What is artificial intelligence?
Discuss: Ask students if they have ever encountered the term “artificial intelligence” (or “AI”). If they have, ask volunteers how they would define it in their own words. If they have not, ask them what they think the term might mean.
Vocabulary: Artificial intelligence is the ability of machines to learn and problem-solve.
Discuss: Ask students about technologies they’ve encountered, be they real or fictional, that might incorporate AI. Draw out as much detail as possible, suggesting a few of your own if necessary to spark ideas. Display the label “AI Examples” on the board and record applicable responses beneath it. If appropriate, display images of technologies that use AI, such as social media apps, video games, or self-driving cars.
Prompt: Again, AI is the ability of machines to learn and problem-solve. By comparison, it is said that humans have “natural” intelligence. What are your thoughts on the differences between artificial intelligence and natural intelligence?
Discuss: Allow students to think and respond to the prompt above.
We humans can think, feel, create, and act on our own. We can decide to do things independently, unlike machines, which are programmed to perform specific tasks. So why do we call what machines have “intelligence” in the first place? The key term is “artificial”, which you might think of as “like”, as in “like intelligence”. For example, virtual assistants - such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, or Google’s Assistant - are obviously not humans, but they can demonstrate something that seems a bit like human intelligence when they talk to us.
What are ethics?
Discuss: Ask students to describe how some of the technologies they’ve brought up might demonstrate artificial intelligence. Take the conversation further by asking what some of the benefits and drawbacks of these technologies might be. Among the drawbacks discussed, which might be labeled “wrong” or “bad”? Why?
When we discuss right and wrong, good and bad, we are discussing “ethics”.
Vocabulary: Ethics are guidelines for good behavior.
Discuss: Ask students what they think the term “AI ethics” means, given the definition above.
“AI ethics” are simply ethics as they relate to AI. AI is used in more and more ways that touch our lives. No matter how “intelligent” machines may appear, they are still tools that humans create. If created or used without the right guidelines, machines with AI can easily make unethical decisions, such as being biased against someone’s gender or race. The more aware we are of ethical issues involving AI, the better we will be able to make sure that AI benefits everyone in society.
Activity (40 mins)
Research and Reflect
Groups: Place students in groups of three or four.
Roleplay time! Today you are a group of AI experts. Each group specializes in a particular area of AI ethics. You are holding a meeting to write an “AI Code of Ethics”, which will be a set of rules for people who work on AI machines and lawmakers worldwide! One example of a rule might be, “AI must treat all people fairly.” Before you begin writing these rules, you will research your area and discuss it with your group members.
Distribute: Share the AI Ethics Research Areas document with each group. Explain that this document lists research areas in AI ethics, along with sample articles and videos students may read and watch. Have groups choose an area of specialization. Encourage students to pick different topics if possible. Then, provide each group with one copy of the AI Ethics Research Reflection handout.
Work: Have groups research their area with their fellow group members, answering questions on the handout along the way. Encourage students to skim longer articles for key ideas, take notes, pose additional questions, and use a search engine to investigate further if time permits.
Share: Ask groups to share what they learned, along with a few answers to the questions on the handout.
Draft “Our AI Code of Ethics” Resource
Prompt: Your next task is to create a similar resource, an “AI Code of Ethics”. Based on what you’ve read and discussed, what are the most important ethical principles (rules) you believe all current and future AI must follow?
Work: Allow groups time to write at least one principle for the class code of ethics. Ideally, their principles should be written as a sentence followed by a short paragraph that provides more context to the reader (see Google’s page). The format of the resource is completely up to you and your students. For example, you might ask groups to create a poster, or for each take a single slide from a shared presentation, or a page from a shared document. You might even ask students to use their webcams to record short video clips that you can compile and publish as a single video. Be as creative as you wish!
Wrap Up (5 mins)
Discuss: Allow students to discuss how today’s lesson has impacted them. Here are some example questions to facilitate discussion:
- What were your thoughts, if any, about AI before today’s lesson? What do you think about AI now?
- What are you still unsure about? How might you go about learning more?
- How would you describe “AI ethics” to a family member or friend who didn’t participate in today’s lesson?
- Why are AI ethics important for everyone to be aware of?
Learn more about AI
If you or your students would like to learn more about AI, check out our How AI Works video series linked at the top of this lesson plan.
CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards (2017)
IC - Impacts of Computing
- 2-IC-20 - Compare tradeoffs associated with computing technologies that affect people's everyday activities and career options.
- 2-IC-21 - Discuss issues of bias and accessibility in the design of existing technologies.