How will these resources help you? 

'Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history,' – Stephen Hawking. To the generation of students in our classrooms, AI is fast becoming a fact of their lives, rather than the science-fiction it was for their parents and teachers. This list will enable the Religion and Worldviews classroom to be a space to delve into some of the philosophical implications of AI, particularly around discussions about the nature of the mind and morality. The list would work well as a cross-curricular exploration alongside other humanities subjects and computer science. It is suited to older students who are covering the mind–body problem as part of an A-level, but would also work well with younger students as an introduction to philosophical ideas. 

Philosophers on consciousness

Philosophers on Consciousness: Talking about the Mind

by Jack Symes, published by Bloomsbury Academic, (2022), 9781350190429

In this engaging guide, Symes pulls together insightful interviews and essays from key thinkers on the mystery of consciousness. He introduces the thinkers and offers helpful tips and explanations throughout, ensuring that though the content encourages high levels of thought it is never overwhelming. The book stands as a good introduction to what we mean by the term 'consciousness', in particular Gregory Miller’s chapter. Symes’s explanations introduce some key thought experiments around the philosophy of mind that can be applied to discussions around AI and machinery vs real life.

Philosophical Questions for Curious Minds

Philosophical Questions for Curious Minds

by Luke Marsh, published by Book Bound, (2023), 9781922435699

Luke Marsh offers bite-sized explorations into many philosophical questions. The book is accessible to younger (pre-KS3) students with a curious disposition, as well as older students who are covering the content in lessons. Marsh not only provides short explanations for tricky concepts and ideas within philosophical questions but models how these questions can be viewed from different angles. He writes with a gentle humour which engages many students in these discussions. Exploring the earlier chapters on the mind–body problem, the self and personal identity will set up a class well for delving into the questions around AI that appear towards the end of the book. 

Can AI machines think?

What an octopus’s mind can teach us about AI’s ultimate mystery

by Will Douglas Heaven, published by MIT Technology Review, (2021)

This comprehensive exploration of the question around AI and consciousness is more suited for teacher subject knowledge and for extra reading for stretching students than for use directly in the classroom, due to its length and scope. However, it is full of nuggets of case studies, thinkers, approaches and disciplines, which would be fantastic to reference in the classroom. The author takes us from Alan Turing's question, 'Can machines think?', through to the ideas of neurosurgeons, philosophers and linguists to help us evaluate the different answers to the question. Emily Bender’s thought experiment of 'The octopus test' would be a fascinating case study to discuss with a class either at the start or end of a unit of work on this topic.
Moral AI: And How We Get There

by Jana Schaich, Borg Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Vincent Conitzer, published by Pelican, (2024), 9780241454749

Asking philosophical questions about AI can allow for a multi-disciplinary approach, which is taken in this book exploring morality and AI – the authors are experts in neuroscience, computer science and philosophy. They discuss not only the morality of the different uses of AI today but also how we can be 'ahead of the game', by considering what questionable uses AI may be put to in the future so that we can prepare to deal with them. They raise the issue that even if we successfully program a 'moral AI' we may still not agree with the decisions it then generates. Topics such as autonomous weapons, fake news and privacy are explored to highlight these moral dilemmas. The book could also be used to encourage meta-ethical discussions about what we mean when we say an action is 'good' or 'bad'. 

Radio clip

The Rise of Artificial Intelligence

by Science Café, published by BBC Radio Wales, (2023)

Adam Walton explores artificial intelligence, discussing both it's potential to transform our world and the ethical questions it raises.

Further Materials

What is consciousness? by Michael S. A. Graziano, published by TED-Ed, (2019) Watch this video
Machine Morality by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Jana Schaich Borg and Vincent Conitzer, published by Stories of Impact, Templeton World Charity Foundation, (2021) Watch this video
This is not Morgan Freeman – A Deepfake Singularity by Bob de Jong, published by Diep Nep, (2021) Watch this video
Ruth Marx teaches Religion and Worldviews, is a Consultant for Religious Studies and PSHE, a Farmington Fellowship Scholar and a published blogger on Re:Online.

Text © Ruth Marx, 2023.