There is no Frigate like a Book - Emily Dickinson

Critical Thinking & Writing Activity: AI and the Future of Automation.

by Christopher Donaldson

The robots are coming—and it’s no joke! Google’s automated self-driving cars are safer and cheaper than current taxis and trucks with drivers. Multi-Agent Artificial Intelligence runs the New York Stock Exchange on micro-transactions that no human could perform. Inventor and industrialist Elon Musk has declared AI the next probable existential threat to humanity, garnering the public support of Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking.

In this activity, you will examine the press articles and videos concerning this subject, and write a composition of your own using the sources provided below.


  1. Read and understand the articles
  2. Watch and understand the videos
  3. Write a ONE-PAGE composition based on ONE of the following topics:
    1. An impartial but informative news article for your local newspaper
    2. An argumentative essay pursuing one aspect of the debate
    3. An analysis of the credibility and motivations of the articles and videos below


Questions to think about while reading the following articles:
  • Credibility: Is the author or publisher reputable?
  • Bias: Does the author or publisher exhibit a vested interest in their subject matter.
  • Balance: How well balanced is the article in the presentation of the arguments?.
  • Sources: Are the sources of information cited?



While you're watching the videos below, think about the following questions:

  • What is the goal each video is trying to achieve?
  • What are the scientific facts presented in the video?
  • Are the claims backed up with evidence? 
  • What is the level of neutrality in which the information is presented?

The Rise of Artificial Intelligence

A video from the PBS Digital Library

Humans Need Not Apply

C.G.P. Grey

Other Activities


Open Discussion Questions

After you’ve read the articles and watched the videos above, discuss the following questions in a small group or with a partner.
  1. How much do the articles and videos involve the future of the average person in their discussion of development and use of AI and automation?
  2. What are the differences between AI, Strong AI, and Automation? What are their similarities?
  3. What are the possible benefits of AI and Automation?
  4. What are the possible detriments of AI and Automation?
  5. What would be the impact of one government’s (e.g. the US) ban on AI research for the rest of the world?
  6. How do you think Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk’s celebrity statuses affects people’s opinions on AI? Are their opinions scientifically credible?
  7. Which do you think would be more helpful to humanity, AI or Automation, and why?
  8. Which would be more harmful, and why?
  9. What is your opinion on the value of “the life” of a Strong AI system?
  10. What do you think people will do if AI and Automation replace millions in the workforce?

Download the questions in PDF

Mini Debate

With a partner, or in an evenly divided group, choose one of the three situations below, and conduct a debate adopting the positions outlined below. Take some time to prepare your debate based on the sources given above.

The year is 2025. You are at a summit to decide what laws your country will put in place regarding research into Artificial Intelligence. Strong AI is decades away, but even normal AI has begun to take jobs from human workers. You and your partner must discuss your views on AI research and come to a compromise on the future laws for your country.

Position A:
As a skeptic of AI you think that AI represents too much of a danger to humanity, and that AI research should be subject to limitations and restrictions before any research project moves forward. Cite examples from the sources above or your own research to support your argument.

Position B:
You are a lobbyist representing the interest of companies involved in AI research and you think that AI research is the key to a successful future, and such research should be strongly supported for the benefit of humankind. Cite examples from the sources above or your own research to support your argument.

Download the mini-debate in PDF



What are your thoughts and views on Artificial Intelligence?  Feel free to express yourself below.