Fall 2024

The Legal and Cultural Lives of AI

Listed in: Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, as LJST-291


Mark Firmani (Section 01)


This course proceeds from the premise that both law and cultural production—literature, film, poetry, etc.—condition how we understand, develop, and interact with artificial intelligence (AI). While the term “AI” only emerged in the United States in the 1950s, human fascination with artificially intelligent entities has surfaced in literature since Homer’s epics and continues to animate contemporary cultural production as AI itself advances at a rapid pace. As the need for our legal system to regulate these developments becomes increasingly evident, official responses and imaginative solutions proliferate, spawning new fields of inquiry and conditioning existing ones. In this course, we will engage with fictional works—both literature and film—in order to trace how imagining AI has evolved historically. We will also explore legal texts—case law, statutes and regulations, and legal scholarship—in order to track how humans have used laws and the legal system to account for the social, political, and economic changes induced, or threatened, by AI. Taking inspiration from the nascent field of Critical AI Studies as well as scholars working in Science and Technology Studies, we will consider AI not solely as technological: instead, we will attend to how cultural work that has imagined AI has conditioned the laws meant to regulate it, and, in turn, how these laws and regulations have conditioned such cultural work. 

Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Firmani.

How to handle overenrollment: Priortiy given to LJST Majors

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Students will be expected to participate actively in class and complete written assignments (e.g., discussion posts, short writing exercises, research paper).

Course Materials


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2024