Micro Schedule & Topics Discussed

This is the schedule of topics for the Fall 2021 course as taught on the Carnegie Mellon Qatar campus. Micro courses are short and concentrated courses that distill knowledge from a larger course. The syllabus for the full course this Micro is based on is also available for reference.

All dates/days are in Qatar time.

Week 1: Introduction

Sunday Aug 22 6-7pm

Introduction to class [slides]
Topics of discussion in class:

  1. Class objectives and expectations.
  2. The two themes that animate this class: How AI Shapes Society and How to Shape AI

No readings due today. Please complete Assignment #0 and the reading below before the next class.

Thu, Aug 26, 6-8 pm

Topics of discussion:

  1. Introduction to classmates [slides]
  2. Do artifacts have politics? by Langdon Winner [Submit your reading reflection on this paper]

Week 2: Recommender systems as a case study

Sun, Aug 29, 6-8 pm

Reading reflections due today (we also discuss these papers in class the day readings are due):

  1. Recommender Systems by Paul Resnick and Hal Varian, March 1997. [Fun fact: Hal Varian also led the early development of Google’s ad-auction mechanisms]
  2. “People who like lattes also like…” Why Do Liberals Drink Lattes? 

In class, we are going to discuss these papers and also build a very simple recommendation system.

Please add your reflections to this post as a comment.

Thu, Sep 2, 6-7 pm

Reading reflections on:

  1. The Making of a YouTube Radical on the New York Times. Note: this article mentions rape, violence, and contains offensive racial and other slurs. If you are uncomfortable, you may skip this article. You can access the article through Access NYT.
  2. Optional, but recommended: Recommending What Video to Watch Next: A Multitask Ranking System by many authors at Google. [Google owns Youtube]

Suggestion: In your reflection, you could discuss if Youtube’s new system would have made a difference to the protagonist in the New York Times article.

Please add reflections as a comment.

Week 3: AI and the Jobs of the Future

Sun, Sep 5, 6-8 pm

Readings discussed:

  1. The future of work: Why are there still so many jobs?
  2. Utopia? Smart Interfaces for Human-Centered AI
  3. Dystopia? Anthropological/Artificial Intelligence & the HAI

Our slides today

Homework due Thursday (We will discuss your results in class)

For one day, note down all the things you use your smartphone for (alternatively, any personal computing device.) What “jobs” does this device do for you? What “jobs” do you do for the device? (e.g. labeling, explaining, sustaining etc.) What parts of these jobs replace human jobs? Which of these might be enriched by greater human involvement?


  1. 20 points: Credit for demonstrating you observed a whole day.
  2. 40 points: Description of jobs done by device, jobs you do for device.
  3. 40 points: Description of how does it interact with human jobs? Replacement/enrichment/new human jobs.

The expectation is you’ll make three slides: 1) Jobs done by device; 2) Jobs done by you; 3) How do machine jobs interact with human jobs? e.g. Replacement/enrichment/new human jobs.

Please add 3 slides to this slide deck.

Thu, Sep 9, 6-7 pm

We will discuss your slides in class

Week 4: Humans and machines in the loop

There is no class on Sunday.

Thu, Sep 16, 6-7 pm

Readings discussed today:

  1. Scaling B12 Recommendations with a human-in-the-loop recommender system
  2. A Case for Backward Compatibility for Human-AI Teams

As you read these papers, think about how these metaphors apply in your jobs homework assignment. Then update your slide deck, and add one more slide: How could one of the “jobs” you identify improve if you added a human/machine in the loop.

Week 5: Privacy and Power

Sun, Sep 19, 6-8 pm

Readings discussed in class today:

  1. Don’t ask if artificial intelligence is good or fair, ask how it shifts power 
  2. Access Denied: Faulty Automated Background Checks Freeze Out Renters 

Reading reflection

Thu, Sep 23, 6-7 pm

Readings discussed in class today:

  1. Protecting Civil Liberties During a Public Health Crisis 
  2. The Politics of Privacy Theories: Moving from Norms to Vulnerabilities

Update your slide deck, and add one more slide: How could one of the “jobs” you identify improve if you considered questions of vulnerability and power?

Week 6: Doing it in practice

Thu, Sep 30, 6-8 pm

  1. How to recognize AI snake oil
  2. Improving Fairness in Machine Learning Systems: What Do Industry Practitioners Need? 

Update your slide deck, and add one more slide: What might using one of the strategies in the second paper look like for the “job” you improved in Week 5?

Also discussing: conclusions, other courses you might find interesting, and where to go from here.