News  |  ,   |  September 4, 2019

MIT developed a course to teach tweens about the ethics of AI

News article by Jenny Anderson.
Published in Quartz.


This summer, Blakeley Payne, a graduate student at MIT, ran a week-long course on ethics in artificial intelligence for 10-14 year olds. In one exercise, she asked the group what they thought YouTube’s recommendation algorithm was used for.

“To get us to see more ads,” one student replied.

“These kids know way more than we give them credit for,” Payne said.

Payne created an open source, middle-school AI ethics curriculum to make kids aware of how AI systems mediate their everyday lives, from YouTube and Amazon’s Alexa to Google search and social media. By starting early, she hopes the kids will become more conscious of how AI is designed and how it can manipulate them. These lessons also help prepare them for the jobs of the future, and potentially become AI designers rather than just consumers.

“Kids today are not just digital natives, they are AI natives,” said Cynthia Breazeal, Payne’s advisor and the head of the personal robots group at the MIT Media Lab. Her group has developed an AI curriculum for preschoolers.

Payne is keen to open up the AI field, which many say is rife with bias. According to the latest AI Index (pdf) affiliated with Stanford University, the applicant pool for jobs in AI is 71% male. The sooner you open up the black box of AI, the more accessible it may become to future engineers, the thinking goes. “It’s important for the diversity and the inclusivity battle,” Breazeal said. [ . . . ]