?> CORE 1000: The Most Human Computer - Class Page

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CORE 1000: The Most Human Computer - Class Page

Fall 2022

Instructor David Ferry, Homepage
Course Web Site http://cs.slu.edu/~dferry/courses/ignite/
Course meeting times Monday, Wednesday, & Friday from 9:00 am - 9:50 am, Ritter Hall 115
Midterm exam
Final exam
Thursday, December 15th, 8:00 am - 9:50 am
Office hours See my schedule
Contact You may contact me in person during office hours or during class time, or you may email me at dferry@slu.edu. I am also available to meet by appointment, see my schedule.

  1. Course Description
  2. Prerequisites
  3. Lecture
  4. Studios
  5. Labs
  6. Course Schedule
  7. SLU Git Repository
  8. Textbooks and Other Resources
  9. Grading
  10. Attendance
  11. COVID-19 Considerations for Fall 2021
  12. Fall 2021 Mask Policy
  13. Academic Integrity
  14. Title IX Statement
  15. Academic Support
  16. Disability Services
  17. Writing Center
  18. Basic Needs Security

Course Description

Since the dawn of modern computing, thinkers have asked what the limits of mechanical processes really are. What is it that truly separates the intellectual domain of the human mind from problems that can be solved by an algorithm? Computers are inherently machines that carry out instructions mindlessly and repeatedly, so surely there must be some difference between what that mechanical process can achieve and the boundless creativity of the human mind. And yet, the mechanical thinking machines have slowly but steadily expanded what they can do, and simultaneously encroach on what we once considered to be uniquely human. Where does this process stop- will there be something left that separates man from the machines?

"Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying."

- Arthur C. Clarke

Course "Big Questions"

The major elements of this course are class meetings, readings, reflections, programming assignments, a course programming project, and a research project. Lectures are our time together for instruction on programming concepts and discussion of class readings. Out of class readings allow you to access concepts beyond what we have time for during class, and also give you time to digest and reflect on ideas before class discussion. Reflections are out of class activities along with written journal entries that allow us to experience class concepts in the real world. Programming assignments are computer programs I ask you to write to learn programming concepts and demonstrate mastery. The course programming project is a semester-long project where you will implement a "chat bot"- a program that attempts to converse with a user as though it is human. The research report asks you to examine one of our main course questions from a domain of your choosing.

Programming Topics Outline:

Course Concepts Outline:

Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm

Known as "Ignatian" because it is rooted in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), the five elements together comprised (and continue to comprise) the essential components of Jesuits' meditative practices and became integrated with the Jesuits' approach to education in the schools they established around the world.

Our goal in this course is not to master material or learn skills, but rather to cultivate informed, well-rounded opinions on a difficult subject that has no definite answers. We also seek to develop in each student their own personal approach to inquiry- you will find that some arguments are meaningful and persuasive, while others are not, and that is a good thing to understand about yourself. I will also ask that you have the patience to understand those arguments you do not find persuasive, and understand why others do find them persuasive.

The cyclic structure above hints at, we will attempt to engage our course topic multiple times and in multiple ways. We will intersperse our reading, discussions, and programming with activities and reflections that ask us to continually evaluate and re-evaluate the opinions we are forming.

Course Activities

Readings- We will do readings out of our course text as well as from other sources. These are to be completed by class on the day they are listed on the schedule, as they may form the basis for the activities in class that day.

Class Discussion- A substantial component of our course will be wrestling with readings and concepts together in community. Our courses' Big Questions are inherently tied to the human experience, so more human experiences are a broader base for understanding!

Reflections- I will periodically ask you to produce short written reflections on specific readings, concepts, or course Big Questions. These are an opportunity for you to take stock of your own thoughts and feelings and put these into words.

Programming Assignments- A major experiential learning component of this course is for each student to do substantial programming activities themselves. A technical understanding of how computer programs are constructed will help inform the student as to how machines do their "thinking," or lack thereof.

Programming Project- Our programming assignments all feed into a substantial individual project- building a chat-bot that is designed to interact with (and potentially fool) people into thinking that it is a real person. Discussion of chat-bots and what they mean will be a major element in this class.

Research Project- A culminating presentation for the course will be to research and present a unique take on humanity, the human/computer experience, or how humans interact with computers. This presentation asks you to approach one of our Big Questions from a perspective outside of computer science and programming: biology, psychology, philosophy, religion, etc. In lieu of a final exam you will present this perspective during the last week or two of class.

University Core

The Saint Louis University Core is an academic program intentionally structured to facilitate student achievement of both holistic and component-level student learning outcomes (SLOs). SLU’s Course Syllabus Policy requires that learning outcomes appear on all syllabi. Below, you will find a table with the University Core and Core Component SLOs indicated. Please copy the boilerplate below and insert it into your syllabus.

Ignite Seminar

This course is part of the Saint Louis University Core, an integrated intellectual experience completed by all baccalaureate students, regardless of major, program, college, school or campus. The Core offers all SLU students the same unified approach to Jesuit education guided by SLU’s institutional mission and identity and our nine undergraduate Core Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs).

Ignite Seminar is one of 19 Core Components. The University Core SLO(s) that this component is designed to intentionally advance are listed below:

University Core Student Learning Outcomes

The Core SLO(s) that this component is intentionally designed to advance are:

SLO 1: Examine their actions and vocations in dialogue with the Catholic, Jesuit tradition

SLO 2:  Integrate knowledge from multiple disciplines to address complex questions

SLO 3: Assess evidence and draw reasoned conclusions

SLO 5: Analyze how diverse identities influence their lives and the lives of others


Additionally, the Core Component-level Student Learning Outcomes are listed below:

Component-level Student Learning Outcomes

Students who complete this course will be able to:

· Recognize that both personal and social context shapes all learning.

· Characterize how the experience of learning through a distinct disciplinary or interdisciplinary mode of inquiry shapes knowledge of ourselves, our communities, and our world.

· Reflect on learning experiences to arrive at a deeper understanding of who they are as scholars and citizens.

· Evaluate the ways in which new knowledge illuminates routes towards future action, and identify possible actions one might take in the service of humanity.

· Identify, evaluate, and utilize a variety of SLU library source materials to complete a course assignment.

Catalog Description:What does it mean to be human, and how close can a computer get? This class explores the theory of what is and is not computable, as well as definitions for what it means to have conscious human thought, and how those two concepts relate. This course also serves as an introduction to computer programming and asks that the student experience and reflect on how people interact with computers to solve complex, modern problems as well as how computing is shaping the human experience.


Please see the instructor if you're uncertain about your preparation for this course.

Course Schedule

A tentative course schedule is below. Note that this schedule may change over the course of the semester. When changes occur, students will be given enough advance notice so that readings and other preparation may be accommodated.
Date Day Topic Readings Homeworks
Aug 24 Wed Class Intro
Aug 26 Fri Lecture - Experiential and Reflective Learning
Aug 29 Mon Book Discussion- The Turing Test
(Survey Link)
The Most Human Human - Chapter 1
The Most Human Human
Aug 31 Wed Perspective- Meet the Bots
Sep 02 Fri Class Canceled
Sep 05 Mon Labor Day - No Class
Sep 07 Wed Code- Getting Python to Talk
Programming Environment
Print Statements
Sep 09 Fri Code- Working With Strings
Sep 12 Mon Book Discussion- Identity
Second Conversation Survey
Readings Survey
Reading 1
Reading 2
Reading 3
The Most Human Human - Chapter 2
Sep 14 Wed Perspective- Sentience Readings
Perspective- Increasing Computer Authenticity
(This Cat Does Not Exist)
(This Horse Does Not Exist)
(This Person Does Not Exist)
Sep 16 Fri Perspective- Characterization Exercises
(Creating An Authentic Character)
Sep 19 Mon Code- Conditional Responses
If/Then/Else Statements
Substring Searching
Homework #1 Due
Homework #2 Assigned
Sep 21 Wed Shall We Play A Game?
Code- Loops
Simple Games
More Drawing
Homework #1 Due
Homework #2 Assigned
Sep 23 Fri Book Discussion- The Seat of Humanity The Most Human Human - Chapter 3
The Migratory Soul
Sep 26 Mon Perspective- Defining Humanity
Sep 28 Wed No Class
Sep 30 Fri Code- Hard-coding a Chatbot Homework #2 Due
Homework #3 Assigned
Oct 03 Mon Book Discussion- Humanness, mechanization, and automation The Most Human Human - Chapter 4
Site-Specificity vs. Pure Technique
Oct 05 Wed Perspective- Economics of Mechanization and Automation
Oct 07 Fri Code- A little ELIZA
String Matching
String Replacement
Homework #3 Due
Homework #4 Assigned
Oct 10 Mon Code- Template Matching Engine
Oct 12 Wed Code- Template Matching Engine
Oct 14 Fri Book Discussion- What drives automation and mechanization? The Most Human Human - Chapter 5
Getting Out of Book
Oct 17 Mon Perspective - Games of perfect Information:
Oct 19 Wed Coding- Making the Book: Writing Templates
Sick Day Lecture
Oct 21 Fri Code- Architecting a Simple Bot
Homework #4 Due
Homework #5 Assigned
Oct 24 Mon Book Discussion- Finding a Purpose The Most Human Human - Chapter 6
The Anti-Expert
Oct 26 Wed Perspective-
Oct 28 Fri Fall Break - No Class
Oct 31 Mon Code- Coding vs. Configuration
File Input/Output
Homework #5 Due
Homework #6 Assigned
Nov 02 Wed Book Discussion- Sounding Like a Machine The Most Human Human - Chapter 7
Barging In
Nov 04 Fri Course Presentations Introduction
Nov 07 Mon Library with Megan Toups
Nov 09 Wed Library with Megan Toups
Nov 11 Fri Code- Homework #6 Due
Homework #7 Assigned
Nov 14 Mon Book Discussion- Oversharing The Most Human Human - Chapter 8
The World's Worst Deponent
Nov 16 Wed Perspective-
Nov 18 Fri Code- Homework #7 Due
Homework #8 Assigned
Nov 21 Mon Book Discussion- Your Human Narrative The Most Human Human - Chapter 9
Not Staying Intact
Nov 23 Wed Thanksgiving - No Class
Nov 25 Fri Thanksgiving - No Class
Nov 28 Mon Perspective-
Nov 30 Wed Code- Homework #8 Due
Homework #9 Assigned
Dec 02 Fri Book Discussion- Compression Algorithms for the Human Experience The Most Human Human - Chapter 10
High Surprisal
Dec 05 Mon Perspective-
Dec 07 Wed Book Discussion- The Road Back Home The Most Human Human - Chapters 11 and 12
Conclusion and The Unsung Beauty of the Glassware Cabinet
Dec 09 Fri Presentations
Dec 15 Thursday Final Exam

SLU Git Repository

All homeworks will be submitted via individual course Git repositories that are housed at SLU. You will find your repository already has a directory structure that provides a place for all lab and studio assignments. Your work must be in the appropriate location for the instructor to find it and count it for credit.

A short guide to using SLU's git resources

Textbook and Class Resources

Required Course Book: The Most Human Human by Brian Christian.

Grading Policy

Activity Grade Percentage
Homeworks 50%
Reflections 10%
Programming Project 20%
Research Presentation 20%

Grading is done on a straight scale (uncurved). The following scores are guaranteed. The grading scale may be curved upwards (in your favor) at the discretion of the instructor.

Most work assigned in this course, is expected to be completed individually. The sharing of written work or significant portions of code between students is strictly prohibited.


Successful students attend all or mostly all class sessions. This is true in my experience and has been demonstrated in large scale studies as well. In that study, even students who attended nine out of ten class periods had measurably lower class performance than those who attended all classes. However, there is no attendance requirement for this class, and you do not need to get permission when you do miss class. You are an adult and have the freedom to manage your time in whatever way you feel is most useful. Job interviews, conferences, tests in other courses, etc. are all reasonable cases for being absent.

Note that in-class assignments such as tests or quizes cannot be made up outside of class without prior approval from the instructor. All such activities will be listed course schedule with ample time to prepare (i.e. there are no "pop quizes").

If you do miss class you should refer to the course schedule to see what was missed and arrange to get course notes from another student. I am always happy to answer questions but I do not repeat full class periods in office hours.

Academic Honesty/Integrity

Academic integrity is honest, truthful and responsible conduct in all academic endeavors. The mission of Saint Louis University is “the pursuit of truth for the greater glory of God and for the service of humanity.” Accordingly, all acts of falsehood demean and compromise the corporate endeavors of teaching, research, health care, and community service through which SLU fulfills its mission. The University strives to prepare students for lives of personal and professional integrity, and therefore regards all breaches of academic integrity as matters of serious concern. The full University-level Academic Integrity Policy can be found on the Provost's Office website at: https://www.slu.edu/provost/policies/academic-and-course/policy_academic-integrity_6-26-2015.pdf. ​

Disability Accomodations

Students with a documented disability who wish to request academic accommodations must formally register their disability with the University. Once successfully registered, students also must notify their course instructor that they wish to use their approved accommodations in the course.

Please contact the Center for Accessibility and Disability Resources (CADR) to schedule an appointment to discuss accommodation requests and eligibility requirements. Most students on the St. Louis campus will contact CADR, located in the Student Success Center and available by email at accessibility_disability@slu.edu or by phone at 314.977.3484. Once approved, information about a student’s eligibility for academic accommodations will be shared with course instructors by email from CADR and within the instructor’s official course roster. Students who do not have a documented disability but who think they may have one also are encouraged to contact to CADR. Confidentiality will be observed in all inquiries.

Title IX

Saint Louis University and its faculty are committed to supporting our students and seeking an environment that is free of bias, discrimination, and harassment. If you have encountered any form of sexual harassment, including sexual assault, stalking, domestic or dating violence, we encourage you to report this to the University. If you speak with a faculty member about an incident that involves a Title IX matter, that faculty member must notify SLU’s Title IX Coordinator and share the basic facts of your experience. This is true even if you ask the faculty member not to disclose the incident. The Title IX Coordinator will then be available to assist you in understanding all of your options and in connecting you with all possible resources on and off campus.

Anna Kratky is the Title IX Coordinator at Saint Louis University (DuBourg Hall, room 36; anna.kratky@slu.edu; 314-977-3886). If you wish to speak with a confidential source, you may contact the counselors at the University Counseling Center at 314-977-TALK or make an anonymous report through SLU’s Integrity Hotline by calling 1-877-525-5669 or online at http://www.lighthouse-services.com/slu. To view SLU’s policies, and for resources, please visit the following web addresses: https://www.slu.edu/about/safety/sexual-assault-resources/index.php.

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Temporary Mandatory Statement on Face Masks

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, key safeguards like face masks have allowed SLU to safely maintain in-person learning. If public health conditions and local, state, and federal restrictions demand it, the University may require that all members of our campus community wear face masks indoors.

Therefore, any time a University-level face mask requirement is in effect, face masks will be required in this class. This expectation will apply to all students and instructors, unless a medical condition warrants an exemption from the face mask requirement (see below).

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When a University-wide face mask requirement is in effect, the following will apply:

When a University-wide face mask requirement is not in effect, students and instructors may choose to wear a face mask or not, as they prefer for their own individual comfort level.

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ADA Accommodations for Face Mask Requirements

Saint Louis University is committed to maintaining an inclusive and accessible environment. Individuals who are unable to wear a face mask due to medical reasons should contact the Office of Disability Services (students) or Human Resources (instructors) to initiate the accommodation process identified in the University’s ADA Policy. Inquiries or concerns may also be directed to the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity. Notification to instructors of SLU-approved ADA accommodations should be made in writing prior to the first class session in any term (or as soon thereafter as possible).

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Temporary Mandatory Statement on In-Class Attendance and Participation

The health and well-being of SLU’s students, staff, and faculty are critical concerns, as is the quality of our learning environments. Accordingly, the following University policy statements on in-person class attendance are designed to preserve and advance the collective health and well-being of our institutional constituencies and to create the conditions in which all students have the opportunity to learn and successfully complete their courses.

  1. Students who exhibit any potential COVID-19 symptoms (those that cannot be attributed to some other medical condition the students are known to have, such as allergies, asthma, etc.) shall absent themselves from any in-person class attendance or in-person participation in any class-related activity until they have been evaluated by a qualified medical official. Students should contact the University Student Health Center for immediate assistance.
  2. Students (whether exhibiting any of potential COVID-19 symptoms or not, and regardless of how they feel) who are under either an isolation or quarantine directive issued by a qualified health official must absent themselves from all in-person course activities per the stipulations of the isolation or quarantine directive.
  3. Students are responsible for notifying their instructor of an absence as far in advance as possible; when advance notification is not possible, students are responsible for notifying each instructor as soon after the absence as possible. Consistent with the University Attendance Policy, students also are responsible for all material covered in class and must work with the instructor to complete any required work. In situations where students must be absent for an extended period of time due to COVID-19 isolation or quarantine, they also must work with the instructor to determine the best way to maintain progress in the course as they are able based on their health situation.
  4. Consistent with the University Attendance Policy, students may be asked to provide medical documentation when a medical condition impacts a student’s ability to attend and/or participate in class for an extended period of time.
  5. As a temporary amendment to the current University Attendance Policy, all absences due to illness or an isolation/quarantine directive issued by a qualified health official, or due to an adverse reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine, shall be considered “Authorized” absences.