Algorithms, AI, and Machine Learning

In early October, approximately 25 Lovett students joined 500 other learners from around the world to explore algorithms, artificial intelligence, and machine learning in a Global Online Academy (GOA) course with the subtitle, “The Invisible Forces that Shape our Lives.”

Since 2013, Lovett has been a member of GOA, an organization committed to empowering students and educators to thrive in a globally networked society. Each year, twenty Lovett students enroll in semester or year-long online courses with teachers and students at member schools around the world. GOA’s recent “flex-course” on artificial intelligence, however, was designed to augment--not replace--an on-campus course. The two-week experience dovetailed perfectly with Lovett’s Computer Science I curriculum and allowed participants to learn from world-renowned experts and engage in dialogue with students from a variety of backgrounds and contexts.

For many Lovett students, the interviews with experts were a highlight of the two-week flex course. They learned from Andrew Beam, a faculty member at Harvard Medical School with a specialty in using machine learning to improve healthcare, and from Nick Diakopoulos, an assistant professor at Northwestern University, who studies the role algorithms play in the creation and consumption of the news. Students found the content challenging and timely, as they confronted the bias that can be baked into algorithms and began to see implications for the future of work.

As the course neared its end, students chose one of several paths for a deep dive into the content that most interested them: entertainment, the future of work, democracy & society, and the mathematics of algorithms. Lovett students embraced this chance to chase their own questions and curiosities. Ultimately, though, the flex course raised more questions than it answered. Indeed, questions cover the wall on one side of the Computer Science classroom, and students will return to these wonderings throughout the semester.

As a final reflection, all 500 students in the course responded to these queries about artificial intelligence and AI: “What makes us hopeful?” and “What gives us pause?” Their answers are captured in these word clouds.

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