hisbaan noorani
Dec 31, 2021

CSC199 - Intelligence: Artificial and Human

While learning how to code is essential, learning the history of the code you write and the thought process you go through when solving a Leetcode problem are also important. This course engages the history, assumptions, and aspirations of computer science---particularly concerning artificial intelligence. I took this course during the fall 2020 semester, so the information in this article is subject to change.

Gerald Penn and Jean-Oliver RichardFall 2020

General Information

This course's material was fascinating. While the class readings could be heavy at times, they were very rarely unmanageable (save for one exception, which was somewhat self-inflicted). This course is also offered as SMC199 (through St. Mike's College). Both the professors are very passionate about both teaching and learning. The course is usually a discussion of the readings, and while that might sound dry, it generally isn't. This course, as previously mentioned, is reading heavy and is thus discussion heavy. If you don't mind talking to a group of around 30 peers, you won't have any issues with this class. I do not feel that online learning increased the course load as it does for many other courses; however, it was still relatively high for a breadth requirement. As long as you keep up with the readings and don't try to do them all at the end of the week or during the lecture, you will be well-prepared for class discussions.

Teaching Staff

There were two professors for this course. The first, and in my opinion primary, professor is Professor Jean-Oliver Richard. Professor Richard is a Christian theology professor. In my experience, Professor Richard carries most of the class conversation. He is not afraid to wait through awkward silences until someone answers his questions (which are usually very specific, so reading the assigned readings is a must). On the bright side, he has an adorable cat.

The second of the two professors is Professor Gerald Penn. Professor Penn is from the Computer Science department. His contributions to class discussion provide some much-needed perspective to the computer science concepts the course talks about. He used an old version of Emacs if you are into that kind of thing. When he is not teaching, he works with all types of language processing (Natural Language Processing, etc.).


The assignments for this course include some required readings, five reading summaries, a problem set, a mock bibliography, and a scholarly monograph review split up a proposal, draft, and final copy. Attendance and participation also make up 20% of the final grade.

Required Readings

These readings are both interesting and essentially required. The class discussion is nearly entirely based on the readings, so you can kiss your 20% participation mark goodbye if you aren't keeping up with them.

Reading Summaries

Another reason why the readings are important is the reading summaries. These bi-weekly assignments should summarize the reading in a specific format that the professors outline in the syllabus. You must follow these formatting guidelines as they are extremely strict about them after the first summary. The reading summaries themselves are not complicated and are essentially busy-work. Each reading response is worth 2% for a total of 10% over five reading summaries.

Problem Set

When I took the course, this problem set looked briefly at problem-solving mindsets, binary tree compression, and probability regarding self-driving artificial intelligence. The problem set is a drastic change of pace from the usual reading and discussion of this class. I believe that this was assigned due to some quota. The problem set is not significantly tricky and can be completed within an evening. This problem set will not likely remain the same, but further details will be provided in class. It is worth 10% of the final grade.


The idea for this assignment is to teach you how to research and create a bibliography as well as research for the scholarly monograph review. You pick a topic that relates to AI from a historical, philosophical, or literary-critical standpoint and curate a list of sources from which you would be able to draw information for a hypothetical paper. Your bibliography should total ten items: two scholarly monographs, two scholarly articles, one book chapter or article from an anthology, and one scholarly encyclopedia or dictionary entry. This assignment is worth 10% of the final grade.

Scholarly Monograph Review

Professor Richard defined a scholarly monograph as "A book that you would not want to read on your own time." This definition sets the mood for this entire assignment. Unfortunately, this assignment is worth a significant portion of the final grade. My choice of scholarly monograph, The Machine Question authored by David J. Gunkel, was a look into the existing philosophy behind the distinction between man and machine. This was a very, very heavy read. It took me many hours of bored, sleepy reading to get through the book. While I thought that it would be interesting at first, as my notes on the book surpassed 13,000 words, I soon realized that it was not as fun as I had hoped. This assignment is split into a proposal, a rough draft, and a final draft.

The proposal is a one-page document stating the monograph you intend to review and providing a brief overview of it. This is similar to the reading summary assignments in terms of structure. To gather information for this proposal, I recommend reading the first couple chapters (at least the introduction) of the monograph and the Wikipedia page, if one exists. According to the syllabus, the proposal should be an academic justification, not a "touchy-feely narrative of how you came across the source." This portion of the assignment is worth 5%.

By the time the first draft of the review rolls around, you should be done your reading and have taken notes on the side. The draft should be approximately 1,000 words in length. More information about the structure is provided in the syllabus. It's not a difficult read, but I cannot stress the formatting enough. By this time in the semester, the professors are very strict about it, and you should follow their instructions to the T. This draft is worth 15% of the final grade.

The final draft should essentially be a refinement of the rough draft, taking into account the editorial feedback you receive on your rough draft. Since the people giving the feedback are the same people grading your assignment, you should implement whatever they suggest, even if you don't necessarily agree with it. This portion of the assignment is worth 30%.

The review, in totality, is worth 50% of your final grade. That is nothing to sneeze at, so I would not recommend leaving this until the last minute.


Overall, I would rate this course on the easier side of my courses. The course load was generally light but could get heavy on weeks with longer readings. As long as you start the readings early in the week, you shouldn't have any issues there. The course load became drastically heavier toward the end of the semester during the book review period. This may very well have been my own doing (via my selection). I recommend doing a quick skim of the book you choose before you pour time into it and are too committed to change your mind. All that said, the actual course is relatively easy. So as long as you diligently complete all the assignments, you will have no trouble earning a good mark.

Parting Words

Despite my self-inflicted suffering from the scholarly monograph review, this course was enjoyable. I had lots of good conversations with both professors and thoroughly enjoyed myself. This is an excellent course if you want to get some perspective on how modern computation evolved and the ethical dilemmas concerning its future evolution. Do keep in mind that you can only take this course in your first year as it is a seminar course, so make sure to prioritize it over other courses like HPS110!

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