Studying online

There are now 3 possible online modes for units:

Units with modes Online timetabled and Online flexible are available for any student to self-enrol and study online.

Units available in Online Restricted mode have been adapted for online study only for those students who require the unit to complete their studies and who are unable to attend campus due to COVID border closures. To be enrolled in a unit in Online Restricted mode, students should contact their Student Advising Office through askUWA and include which of the below criteria applies:

  • You are a student who is currently offshore and unable to enter Australia.
  • You are a student in Australia who is impacted by state or regional border closures.

Click on an offering mode for more details.

PHIL2008 Machine Minds and Superintelligence: The Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 2UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 2 option in the Philosophy major sequence
Artificial intelligence (AI) is developing at an astonishing speed and will soon influence many aspects of our lives. This unit is an introduction to the fascinating philosophical questions concerning AI: Can machines really have a mind? Are we ourselves just biological machines? What are the risks and benefits of AI? Will there ever be superintelligent machines? Is it possible to survive mind-uploading?

Topics may include: (1) the computational theory of mind; (2) Connectionism and neural networks; (3) the nature of computation and implementation; (4) the Turing Test; (5) Searle's Chinese Room argument (6) the extended mind hypothesis; (6) the theoretical prospects for and practical consequences of superintelligent AI; (7) the alignment problem for AI; (8) AI risk; (9) Mind-uploading.
Students are able to (1) evaluate arguments in philosophical texts; (2) independently construct arguments for philosophical positions; (3) apply the methodologies of contemporary philosophy; (4) demonstrate strong written communication and research skills; (5) demonstrate an understanding of some of the fundamental problems in the philosophy of artificial intelligence and mind.; (6) critically review different approaches to the philosophy of artificial intelligence and mind.; and (7) evaluate important theoretical, practical and ethical consequences of artificial intelligence research..
Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) in-class assessment; (2) essay(s); and (3) exam. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Supplementary assessment is not available in this unit except in the case of a bachelor's pass degree student who has obtained a mark of 45 to 49 overall and is currently enrolled in this unit, and it is the only remaining unit that the student must pass in order to complete their course.
Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Clas Weber
Unit rules
Any Level 1 unit
Contact hours
3 hours per week
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.