91257 - Ethics in Artificial Intelligence

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, the student understands the main ethical aspects related to the creation and use of artificial intelligence systems. The student is able to reason critically about the main machine ethics issues connected with the moral behavior of AI systems endowed with autonomous decision capabilities and is able to evaluate the impact of the ethical and legal aspects connected with AI systems.

Course contents

The course aims to provide a thorough overview of the many ethical and social issues raised by information and communication technologies (ICTs), with particular attention to Artificial Intelligence and its impact on society and individuals.

Students will learn about the most compelling social and ethical challenges posed by ICTs and how to approach them in a critical way. Conceptual analysis will be supported by discussion of practical case studies.

Erasmus students follow the same programme of regular students.

Course Contents:

  • Introduction to Ethics
  • Information technologies, purposeful behavior and intelligence;
  • Singularity and Superintelligence;
  • Artificial Agency, Free Will, Consciousness;
  • Artificial Agents and Responsibility;
  • Machine Ethics;
  • AI Ethics and Roboethics;
  • Machine Learning, Big Data and the issues of Bias and Discrimination;
  • Anthropomorphism, Human-Computer/Robot Interaction (HCI, HRI), and Human Dignity; AI and Trust;
  • Human in the loop, Security, and Accountability;
  • AI Explainability and Transparency;
  • Assessing AI use cases. Socio-Technical Scenarios
  • Assessing AI use cases. Ethical tensions, Trade offs.
  • Possible use cases:
    • Military robots and Autonomous Weapon Systems;
    • Self-driving cars;
    • Expert systems: COMPAS, Watson, …;
    • Aviation and Air Traffic Management;
    • Machine artistic creativity (TheNextRembrandt, Obvious Art, Shimon, …);
    • AI Ethics in Healthcare
  • Legal relevance of AI Ethics
  • Ethical Business
  • AI and privacy
  • Modelling of legal and ethical norms and reasoning (with exercises)


Slide and teaching materials (compulsory and supplementary) will be provided during the course, and will be made available on the course website on Insegnamenti online.

Teaching methods

Lectures are held by Prof. Sartor with the support of collaborators.

We warmly invite the students to actively participate in the lectures and discuss with teachers and other students the news and events, related to the topics of the course

During the course the students will have a chance to attend different conferences held by professors and experts (in philosophy, law and computer science) on the topics of this course.

Assessment methods

The assessment includes two mandatory parts: an oral presentation on a given topic and a quiz on all the topics of the course.

The first part of the assessment consists of an oral presentation. Students will be invited in forming small groups and investigate more in-depth one of the proposed topics. The output of this work will be an oral presentation during which each member of each group should present some aspect of the research for a minimal amount of time.
The assessment of this part will concern:

  • consistence with the chosen subject
  • novelty
  • observance of timing
  • in-depth level


The second part of the assessment consists of a written exam. In the written part, students will answer closed questions and multiple-choice questions on the topics of the course. The quiz will be provided through the Moodle platform.

The written exam will last for 1 hour. No texts and/or codes can be used.

The final score will be computed as the average between the scores of the two parts.

Students that cannot make the first part for their specific needs, can ask for an oral exam instead of it.

Teaching tools

Slides and supplementary teaching materials on the main topics, software (e.g. Rationale) to show the structure of the topics.

Expert interventions, viewing of specific films, readings and materials for individual study.

Students who for reasons of disability or specific learning disorders (DSA) need compensatory tools will be able to communicate their needs to the teacher in order to agree on the most appropriate measures.

All information related to the course and supplementary teaching materials will be available on the course website on Insegnamenti online.

Office hours

See the website of Giovanni Sartor

See the website of Francesca Lagioia