L&S Curricular Connections

Big Ideas Courses

Two speakers onstage

Letters & Science 25

Thinking Through Art and Design @Berkeley: Beyond the Uncanny Valley: Art, AI, and Robotics

Arts & Literature

This undergraduate letters and sciences course will expose students to ChatGPT, Midjourney, and other forms of Generative AI and contemporary issues at the intersection of AI and Robotics. The class will explore, critique, and use these technologies to express ideas through accessible and approachable assignments that draw upon the fine arts and design including video, dance, painting, sculpture, installation, music, poetry, and fiction, among other formats. A recurring theme of the course will be the Uncanny Valley, which describes how the overly human-like appearance of a robot can evoke a negative human emotional response ranging from discomfort to revulsion. The Uncanny Valley is used by artists, roboticists, scholars, theorists, researchers, and computer animators. The Uncanny Valley has roots in Gothic literature (eg Frankenstein) and archetypal fears of humanoid technology expressed in artforms from Ovid’s Pygmalian to the films: Terminator, Westworld, and Her. Students will learn about recent advances in AI and robotics and enhance their skills in questioning and challenging assumptions about AI: how to think critically about AI and robotics, how to use new resources such as ChatGPT in new ways, how to formulate incisive questions about AI and Robotics, and how to engage with and evaluate artworks and presentations on AI and Robotics. During the week prior to each lecture, students will do independent research and formulate incisive questions. During each lecture, students will attend, take careful notes, and ask questions. Student grades will be based on class participation, weekly homeworks, and a final team presentation.

“This class has a unique mixture of art and technology that can open up the humanities for more STEM oriented students.”
— Spring 2023 Student
“I absolutely loved this class, and it helped me think and view the world through a more creative lens.”
— Fall 2022 Student