How can we control AI? | A case study of systems thinking
Rapid technological advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) 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?
You can watch a trailer for the course material below:
In this module, we will explore the ways in which social systems are being transformed by technological change. Using systems thinking tools, we will analyse the impact of AI on systems such as transportation, the labour market, criminal justice, and global security. In the process, you will gain expertise in the tools of systems thinking and systems change, broaden your intellectual experience and deepen your understanding of your own discipline as you test theories, evidence and ideas from different disciplinary perspectives. You will also develop your research, communication, teamwork and leadership skills as you apply your intellect and creativity to the challenge of directing technological change.
LSE100 uses a 'flipped classroom' approach - each week you will have two videos featuring leading experts from across the LSE, and 1-2 readings to complete before coming to class. These will be the basis of our class discussion. The videos and readings are all available on Moodle with reading guidance and questions to help guide your learning.
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.
Professor 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.
Professor 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.
Professor 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.
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.
Professor 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.
Dr James Rising (Assistant Professorial Research Fellow at the Grantham Institute). Dr. Rising is an interdisciplinary modeler, studying the feedback between environmental and human systems, and focusing on the impacts of climate change and the water-energy-food nexus.
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.
Professor Leslie Willcocks (Emeritus Professor of Work, Technology and Governance, Department of Management). Prof. Willcock's major research interests include service automation, robotic process automation, cognitive automation of knowledge work, artificial intelligence, digital transformation and emerging technologies.
LSE100 ran a food security module in 2018/19 taken by second year students in MT 2018 and first year students in LT 2019. The module was as follows:
After a decade of decline, we are now witnessing rising global hunger. Over 10% of the world’s population has been described as food insecure. This module approaches food security as an example of a ‘wicked problem’ - a class of social challenges characterised by causal complexity, global interconnection, and widespread disagreement about both the nature of the problem and the potential solutions. This term, we will explore the globally interconnected food system, the complex interplay of individual, national and global interests, and the interdependence of food security with environmental degradation, conflict and inequality.
Throughout the module, we will use Tableau, a leading data visualisation software package, to develop data visualisation and analysis skills, harnessing large-scale datasets to investigate and then communicate the food security situation of a specific case study. To understand and begin to address this wicked problem, you will exercise your creativity, flexibility and leadership abilities, whilst acquiring technical skill-sets in data science and critical thinking which are essential for effective engagement in the world.
Ruth Bates, Saatchi & Saatchi
The Future of Democracy
LSE100 ran a module focused on the future of democracy in 2017 taken by second-year students in MT 2017. The module was as follows:
“Democracy is fragile, and no one can say with certainty that it can withstand the manifold risks to which it is now exposed.” – Bill Moyers, 15 December 2017
As populist movements surge, voter participation rates decline, and leaders with authoritarian leanings achieve unprecedented levels of support in Western countries, growing numbers of scholars are arguing that democracy is experiencing a crisis of legitimacy. Is democracy in decline? Can it be strengthened and improved, or should it be replaced with a different system of governance?
In the coming weeks we will consider democracy as a case study for understanding social change, and the challenges that social scientists and other stakeholders often face in recognizing macro-level change even as it happens around us.
Should markets be constrained or unleashed?
In LT2018, LSE100 ran a module on the markets taken by first year students. The module was as follows:
Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ (The Wealth of Nations 1776) has long served as the theoretical bedrock of modern economic theory, but in a world still bearing scars from the 2008 financial crash, this orthodoxy has come under question. Do free markets unequivocally increase social welfare? Whose interests are furthered by economic globalisation and its attendant neoliberal ideologies? Emerging critiques challenge established understandings of the role of free markets in economic growth and wealth creation. Are we witnessing the death of an ideology that has shaped mainstream Western economic policy since the Cold War? Or can faith in free markets be re-invigorated through new institutional arrangements?
The module opens with economic perspectives on markets and their management. We then examine how behavioural economics and regulatory theory focus on individual agency, and the protection of consumers against the vagaries of the market. We explore the embeddedness of markets in social and cultural contexts, and their potential to reinforce, or conversely to undermine, structural inequalities. Finally, we examine contemporary debates in political philosophy and legal studies on the ethics, and feasibility of managing, markets in body parts and services: Should we be able to buy and sell kidneys? Is commercial surrogacy acceptable? What kind of limits, if any, should there be on markets?