How can we control AI?

[AI] will transform our economies over the decades to come and it will have huge social consequences.

Baroness Minouche Shafik, LSE Director

How can we control AI? How can we control AI?
Watch our theme trailer: How can we control AI?

In the ‘How can we control AI?’ theme, you will explore the emergence of artificial intelligence and its implications. Rapid technological advances in artificial intelligence are augmenting our ability to solve previously intractable problems, fundamentally changing society in ways that are both thrilling and terrifying.

The same tools which could tackle social problems, automate burdensome tasks, and optimise systems can be used to threaten the freedom, physical safety, and economic security of people worldwide. Will AI transform society for the better, or will it simply reinforce existing systems and relationships, further embedding biases, inequalities, and structures of power? Who decides? Can we harness the power of AI for good?

In this module, we will explore the ways in which social systems are being transformed by technological change. You will learn to use the tools and frameworks of systems thinking in order to analyse the impacts of AI, broaden your intellectual experience, and deepen your understanding of your own discipline as you test theories, evidence and ideas from different disciplinary perspectives.


7 hours and 30 minutes of seminars in the MT. 7 hours and 30 minutes of seminars in the LT.

90-minute seminars take place in alternate weeks. Students will attend an LSE100 seminar in either weeks 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 or weeks 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 of both Michaelmas and Lent term.

MT: Seminar – 5 x 90min

LT: Seminar – 5 x 90min

In addition to seminars students will engage with bespoke video lectures featuring academics from across the School (approx. 20 minutes per seminar).

Indicative reading

Oran R. Young (2017). ‘The age of complexity’ in Governing Complex Systems: Social Capital for the Anthropocene (MIT Press)

Ruha Benjamin (2019). ‘Default Discrimination: Is the Glitch Systemic?’ in Race after Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code (Polity).

Frank Levy (2018). ‘Computers and populism: artificial intelligence, politics and jobs in the near term’ in Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Volume 34, Issue 3, Pages 393–417:

Mark Coeckelbergh (2020). ‘AI for climate: freedom, justice, and other ethical and political challenges’ in AI Ethics

Emily Bender, et al. (2021). 'On the Dangers of Stochastic Parrots: Can Language Models Be Too Big?', in FAccT '21: Proceedings of the 2021 ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency, pp.610-623.

Kate Crawford & Ryan Calo (2016) ‘There is a blind spot in AI research’ in Nature, 538: 311-3

Sarah Myers West, Meredith Whittaker & Kate Crawford (2019) Discriminating Systems: gender, race and power in AI (AI Now Institute)

Robert Sparrow & Mark Howard (2017) ‘When human beings are like drunk robots: driverless vehicles, ethics and the future of transport’ in Transportation Research, Part C: 80: 206-15


Coursework (50%, 1500 words) in the MT. Project (50%) in the LT.

Summative assessment will include an individual written assessment in the Michaelmas Term (50%) and a collaborative research project in the Lent Term (50%).


Prof. Martin Anthony (Professor of Mathematics). Prof. Anthony's research interests are in the mathematical theory underpinning machine learning, data science, and Boolean and pseudo-Boolean functions, and the mathematical modelling of issues in data science such as algorithmic fairness and privacy.

Prof. Charlie Beckett (Professor of Practice, Director of Polis and the Polis/LSE JournalismAI project). Prof. Beckett specialises in how journalism around the world is changing and its relationship to society and politics.

Prof. Christopher Coker (Professor of International Relations, Director of LSE IDEAS). Prof. Coker is Director of LSE IDEAS, the School's foreign policy think tank. His books include Why War? (2020), The Rise of the Civilizational State (2019) and Future War (2016).

Dr. Julia Corwin (Assistant Professor of Environment, Dpt. of Geography & Environment). Dr. Corwin's work focuses on the politics of global environmental governance and its relationship to the informal economy and global trade.

Dr. Jon Danielsson (Reader in Finance, Director of the Systemic Risk Centre). Dr. Danielsson's research interests cover systemic risk, financial risk, econometrics, economic theory and financial crisis.

Dr. Eugenie Dugoua (Assistant Professor in Environmental Economics). Dr. Dugoua's interests lie primarily in understanding how institutions and policies influence science, innovation, and technological change so that economic development can be sustainable for the environment and societies.

Dr. Seeta Peña Gangadharan (Associate Professor in Media & Communications). Dr. Gangadharan's work focuses on  inclusion, exclusion, and marginalization, as well as questions around democracy, social justice, and technological governance.

Dr. Stephen Humphreys (Associate Professor of Law). Dr. Humphreys is a Commissioner on the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law. He was a Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C and Academic Advisor to the International Bar Association’s Task Force on Climate Justice and Human Rights.

Marissa Kemp (PhD Candidate, International Relations). Marissa's work explores the ways in which emerging military technologies, and particularly autonomous weapons technologies, may reconfigure the social, cultural, legal, and ethical landscapes of military practice.

Dr. Kari Koskinen (LSE Fellow, Department of Management). Dr. Koskinen studies the role of context in technology development and appropriation, with a special interest in innovation processes that occur in the global South.

Dr. Grace Lordan (Associate Professor of Behavioural Science). Dr. Lordan's research is focused on understanding why some individuals succeed over others because of factors beyond their control, the effects of unconscious bias, discrimination and technology changes.

Prof. Andrew Murray (Professor of Law, Associate Dean of LSE Law School). Prof. Murray's research interests are in regulatory design within Cyberspace, particularly the role of non-State actors, the protection and promotion of Human Rights within the digital environment and the promotion of proprietary interests in the digital sphere.

Dr. Alison Powell (Associate Professor of Media & Communications). Dr. Powell researches how people’s values influence the way technology is built, and how technological systems in turn change the way we work and live together.

Baroness Minouche Shafik (Director of LSE). Baroness Shafik is a leading economist, whose career has straddled public policy and academia. She was appointed Director of the London School of Economics and Political Science in September 2017.

Dr. Chris Tennant (Visiting Fellow in Psychological and Behavioural Science). Dr. Tennant studies the interplay between moral values and rational explanation, media representation, trust and accountability, particularly with respect to autonomous vehicles.

Dr. Ioannis Votsis (Senior Lecturer in Philosophy of AI at New College of the Humanities, formerly Fellow in LSE's Department of Philosophy, Logic & Scientific Method). Dr. Votsis's research interests are in epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of artificial intelligence and meta-philosophy.

Dr. Edgar Whitley (Associate Professor of Information Systems in the Department of Management). Dr. Whitley's research interests are in identity assurance, privacy and data governance, global outsourcing and cloud computing.

Prof. Leslie Willcocks (Emeritus Professor of Work, Technology and Governance, Department of Management). Prof. Willcocks's major research interests include service automation, robotic process automation, cognitive automation of knowledge work, artificial intelligence,  digital transformation and emerging technologies.