COMPSCI 712 : AI Agency, Ethics and Society


2024 Semester One (1243) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Introduces students to a range of philosophical and normative topics relating to artificial intelligence. Examines key ideas of intelligence, privacy, consent, and discusses other ethical issues that arise in the development and use of AI. The importance of Māori rights and interests in AI and data are explored. Possible approaches to addressing these various concerns are considered.

Course Overview

This course examines a range of philosophical and normative topics relating to artificial intelligence. For instance: Is it possible that computers are intelligent in the way that we use that term with regard to humans? And why does it matter? What ethical challenges does artificial intelligence raise? And what ethical approaches are most useful to address these? Should we use machines to make decisions which affect the fundamental rights and interests of humans? Is it possible to preserve current understandings of consent or privacy in a world where AI systems rely on a proliferation of personal information? How can tikanga Māori and Māori rights and interests be given effect in this context? What involvement should people have in automated decision making? Must automated processes be explainable to people? Is AI that relies on existing datasets inevitably discriminatory? What sets of regulations and principles should we apply to AI?

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: People and Place
Capability 2: Sustainability
Capability 3: Knowledge and Practice
Capability 4: Critical Thinking
Capability 5: Solution Seeking
Capability 6: Communication
Capability 7: Collaboration
Capability 8: Ethics and Professionalism
Graduate Profile: Master of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Analyse and evaluate ethical and philosophical issues related to artificial intelligence in both written and oral formats (Capability 3, 4, 6 and 8)
  2. Apply a range of ethical approaches to assessing uses of AI in various contexts (Capability 5 and 8)
  3. Critically discuss Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles and accountabilities in relation to AI (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6)
  4. Formulate and justify arguments on ethics at the core of information-related controversies in discussions and debates (Capability 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Discussions 20% Individual Coursework
Presentation 20% Individual Coursework
Assignments 30% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 30% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4
Final Exam

A pass mark in both the coursework and exam components of the course is required to pass the course.


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Key Topics

  • Introduction to data ethics
  • Ethics and ethical reasoning
  • Automation and human involvement
  • Transparency and explanation
  • Discrimination and bias
  • Māori data sovereignty
  • Consent and contemporary information processing
  • Privacy and contemporary information processing: an ethical perspective
  • Introduction to some ethical guidelines and frameworks

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 36 hours of lectures, 48 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 66 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Lectures will be available as recordings, but attendance is expected. In class participation is required for the discussion and presentation  components of the course.
Attendance on campus is required for the exam.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

The reading list includes relevant background materials and illustrative studies.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

As this is the first run of the course in our new Master of AI programme, student feedback will be particularly helpful in shaping subsequent offerings.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed for potential plagiarism or other forms of academic misconduct, using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 31/10/2023 10:51 a.m.