IC4 – Introduction to Ethics in AI

Lecturer: Heike Felzmann
Fields: Ethics, AI


The last few years have seen an explosion of societal uses of AI technologies, but at the same time widespread public scepticism and fear about their use have emerged. In response to these concerns, a wide range of guidance documents for good practice in AI have been published by professional and societal actors recently. Both as researchers in AI and as consumers of AI it is helpful to understand ethical concepts and concerns associated with the use of AI and to be familiar with some of these guidance documents, in order to be able to reflect carefully on their ethical and social meaning and the balance of their benefits and risks and adapt one’s practices accordingly.

This course provides a general introduction to emergent ethical issues in the field of AI. It will be suitable for anyone with an interest in reflecting on how AI impacts on contemporary life and society. Over the four sessions of the course we will introduce and reflect on ideas and practical applications related to the following topics:

  • Understanding privacy, consent and transparency
  • Automated decision-making, algorithmic biases, autonomous artificial agents and accountability for decisions by artificial agents
  • Assistance, surveillance, persuasion, and human replacement
  • Responsible design and implementation, trustworthiness, and AI for good


The goal of the course is for participants to gain familiarity with core ethical concepts and concerns arising in the development and societal uses of AI, allowing participants to engage in a differentiated and informed manner with the societal debates on AI.


Eubanks, V. (2018). Automating inequality: How high-tech tools profile, police, and punish the poor. St. Martin’s Press. (on Google Books)

HLEG on AI (2019) Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI, https://ec.europa.eu/futurium/en/ai-alliance-consultation 

Nissenbaum, H. (2019). Contextual Integrity Up and Down the Data Food Chain. Theoretical Inquiries in Law, 20(1), 221-256. http://www7.tau.ac.il/ojs/index.php/til/article/download/1614/1715 (ignore the abstract, which is much more obscure than the rest of the article! Contextual integrity is a useful theory of privacy.)

Zuboff, S. (2019) The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The fight for a human future at the frontier of power. (Youtube interviews with Zuboff might be a good introduction.)


Heike Felzmann is a lecturer in Ethics in the School of History and Philosophy at NUI Galway, Ireland. She works on ethics in information technologies (especially on healthcare robots and AI), research ethics, and general health care ethics. She has been part of several European projects, including H2020 MARIO on a care robot for patients with dementia, H2020 ROCSAFE on robot supported incident response, COST 16116 on robotic exoskeletons, COST RANCARE on rationing in nursing care, ITN DISTINCT on technology use in dementia care, ERASMUS PROSPERO on education on social robots for social care, and was the chair of the COST Action CHIPME on innovations in genomics for health. She has also had extensive experience with research ethics governance and research ethics training. She teaches ethics widely across disciplines and is looking forward to meeting the interdisciplinary audience at the IK.

Website: http://www.nuigalway.ie/our-research/people/humanities/heikefelzmann/

Affiliation: NUI Galway