Create introductory AI flag requirement

Ameline Muyeed, Columnist

We live in an era in which artificial intelligence can complete highly complex tasks. From writing a Petrachan sonnet about the Hobbesian state of nature to detecting and classifying geological features on planets and moons, AI is no longer science fiction. Rather, AI permeates every aspect of our lives.

The need for a workforce equipped with AI knowledge is crucial. UT evidently understands this demand, as they recently implemented an online AI master’s degree. But undergraduate-level AI classes remain exclusive to computer science majors. Other majors should have the opportunity to develop career skills in AI.

UT should provide access to AI education across the student body. Creating an introductory AI flag requirement could increase AI enthusiasm and allow students to better understand its trends, benefits and global impacts. 

Undeclared sophomore Anmol Sandhu explained she has limited knowledge about AI’s workings, but teaching everyone about AI can dispel fears of an AI-dominated world.

“I have the bare minimum (knowledge) about the backgrounds of AI,” Sandhu said. “I feel like (AI is) something everyone should know a little about. … AI is everywhere and can be scary. If you know the facts about it at the present, it won’t be as scary in the (future).”

Dr. Peter Stone, Robotics Consortium Director and a founding member of the Good Systems initiative, elaborated on why AI literacy is vital. 

“Having somebody who is grounded in what’s realistic and possible with AI programs and about the different types of algorithms, approaches and models. … As AI programs influence many sectors of the economy, I think it’s going to be more essential that people have some kind of AI literacy,” Dr. Stone said.

Dr. Stone also explained how certain graduate-level AI courses could be adapted to the undergraduate-level as introductory AI courses.

“I think the (graduate) class I co-taught … and the syllabus we put together would work pretty well as an undergraduate class,” Dr. Stone said. “There was a programming component to the course, but if you get rid of that, the course readings we assigned, and the topics we covered, would be a good introductory course for a broad set of students.”

An introductory-level course that fulfills an AI flag requirement could contain AI overviews, applications of knowledge-based technologies, ethical implications and beginner programming concepts. Such courses could additionally be tailored to specific majors. For example, a psychology student could enroll in a class about AI revolutionizing mental health diagnoses, while a marketing major could take a class on algorithmic targeting campaigns.

Conrad Li, a computer science senior and the founder of Engineering and Computational Learning of Artificial Intelligence in Robotics, sees a future where AI classes are a standardized core requirement. He believes an introductory AI course should also be redesigned for students who lack advanced math skills. 

“The courses need to be designed so that (students) with a high school algebra level can understand it,” Li said. “I mean, in the future, I could definitely see (AI classes) as a core requirement… It’s going to be more prevalent in society as technology progresses.”

UT has a responsibility to its students to prepare them for an AI-dominated future and give them a competitive career edge. An AI flag requirement across majors could allow all students to access AI education and gain a deeper and more nuanced understanding of its role in our lives.

Muyeed is an economics sophomore from Southlake, Texas.