Five reasons I would take INT D 161 - Artificial Intelligence Everywhere

Arts student Jeremy checks out an exciting new AI course launching this Winter Term.



YouAlberta is written by students for students.

Jeremy (he/him) is in his final year of a MA in Communications and Technology (MACT) at the U of A. When he's not writing a paper or reading a book, you can find him on some of Edmonton's river valley trails, or trying to get sendy on his skis.

Over the past few years, artificial intelligence (AI) has gone from being something I would see in sci-fi movies and shows (always set in the future) to something that feels very present, both in my life and our society. I’ve learnt a bit about AI from playing with OpenAI’s ChatGPT, checking out Midjourney and reading a few news articles in the media, but at this point, my knowledge of what AI is, how it actually works and where it can be applied feels pretty superficial. 

When I learned about the Artificial Intelligence Everywhere course taught by computing science professor Dr. Adam White, I was really excited to check it out. It’s really easy to fit into a lot of degree pathways: as an INT D (interdisciplinary) course it’s open to almost every undergraduate student, and best of all it’s offered both on-campus (in-person) and asynchronous (online) in Winter 2024, so people can choose what works best for them.

Here are my five big reasons why I’m considering registering for this course:

AI is really cool.

Anyone who’s chatted with ChatGPT or asked DALL-E to make an image is often surprised by just how…natural everything feels. Here are a few examples:

While I was used to the magic of computers, processing datasets often required some fiddling with Python or Excel macros, this isn’t so straightforward for everyone. Generative AI is massively powerful when it’s implemented specifically to deal with large datasets, but just pasting a big blob of numbers into ChatGPT can get you some surprisingly useful insights (note: don’t try this for anything that actually matters).

On many web pages, I’m running into Vera, the generative-AI-powered chatbot assistant who often has the answer I’m looking for. I can text Vera like I text a friend, which feels a lot different than playing with search terms in Google.

And when I need a witty response to the group chat? I want to act like I’m coming up with all of my comedic bits on my own, but let’s be honest…there might’ve been some AI help.

I don’t actually know how AI works…

There are a lot of buzzwords being thrown around…dataset, library, iterative processing, neural networks, etc., and I don’t really understand what all of these mean or how they fit together. While I could spend some time in a Wikipedia rabbit hole trying to figure out what’s going on, the chance to learn from a computing science professor with a strong background in the area sounds a lot more enticing. And these credits apply to a degree? Sign me up!

I want to be able to form better opinions about the role AI is playing in our society.

There’s a lot of talk in the news about what AI means for our society - will it affect jobs? Will it affect learning? Will it go rogue? While I don’t think this course will have ALL the answers to ALL of these topics, I’d like to be able to form some of my own opinions about AI, and I think a good foundational understanding of it is the right first step. There are famous quotes like “the internet is a series of tubes” which might show what happens when the people in charge of making major societal decisions about something don’t understand it. And I definitely don’t want to be caught saying, “Well, AI is really just a lot of layered spreadsheets.”

I want to set myself up for career success.

There are a ton of job titles like data scientist, CAD modeller, systems administrator, software engineer or web designer that all benefit from (or pretty much require) a strong foundational knowledge of computers and the internet. I’m sure that there are going to be a lot of new jobs related to both implementing AI and using it in the workplace and as something without a perfectly clear-cut career path, I want to be ready for these. I feel the foundational knowledge will be really useful to see if I want to pursue a career related to AI.

We’re only going to see more AI!

It wasn’t actually that long ago when the internet was launched (the formal date is in the 80s, but it didn’t really show up in most homes and schools in Canada until the 90s), and then social media was another big thing that followed in the 2000s. Now these things are everywhere, even though they were pretty niche in the beginning. AI seemed like a sci-fi movie trope until a few years ago, and now, almost everyone I know has used it (well, maybe not my grandparents). It’s certainly the next “ubiquitous thing,” and I want to be ready.

Learn more about the course