Getting Started

Introduction to Artificial Intelligence and Practicum AI

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Welcome! This is the place to start your AI journey.

Here we introduce you to artificial intelligence–it is a term we hear a lot, but can you define artificial intelligence? Did you know that AI research dates back to the 1950s? As you start to learn about AI, we will provide a brief overview of what AI is and is not, overview its origins and get you prepared to conduct hands-on, applied AI in the courses that make up the Practicum AI curriculum.

As you begin to learn about AI, we also firmly believe that ethical considerations must always be part of the discussion. While we will return to ethical issues throughout our courses, in the ethics module of this course we introduce some background and major ethical questions to provide some vocabulary and shared understanding to facilitate future discussions about the ethical application of AI.

The vast majority of AI research is currently conducted using the Python programming language. We will look at some non-code examples as we start our exploration of AI, but to do applied AI, we need to learn some Python coding. But don’t worry, our Introduction to Python course will teach you all you need to know in about 4-hours!

As you learn to code, and as we strive to make our, and your, AI explorations as open and reproducible as possible, we also believe that it is important to use industry-standard tools to improve your own coding practices and to share code, data and AI models–part of ethical AI is open and reproducible code! Version control software provides indispensible tools that programmers and data scientists rely on for daily work. Version control software also makes it easy to share code and AI models. git is the leading version control software, and is one of the main online hosting sites for git repositories. We have built Practicum AI using git and GitHub, and feel that understanding these tools is so fundamental to learning AI that we start using GitHub even before learning Python!

So, let’s get started!

Module 1: What is AI

The history of artificial intelligence is important. It helps to know how others have thought about and defined intelligence. It also allows us to appreciate the different ways in which scientists have sought to make machines intelligent. These can be divided into two broad categories: top-down and bottom-up. In this module, both top-down and bottom-up approaches to AI are covered, including the famous Turing Test. This historical knowledge, in turn, allows us to see how AI has developed over time - the rise of machine learning followed by a renewed interest in neural networks.

Module 2: Ethical AIPracticum AI Ethics module icon

Artificial Intelligence has great promise for advancing human understanding. However, when used inappropriately, or when consequences and limitations are not considered, AI has the potential to do great harm, most often disproportionately impacting marginalized populations. While this module deals directly with ethical considerations of AI technologies, it will not be the only place ethical considerations are discussed in the Practicum AI curriculum. We address broad frameworks to facilitate ongoing discussions of ethical, equitable and just AI.

Module 3: Reproducible AI