NLP in the Wild

ETH Zürich: Spring 2024

Course Description

In recent years, NLP has become a part of our daily lives. Many of us use tools like Google Translate to understand sentences in languages we don’t know, and chatbots like ChatGPT to help draft essays and answer basic questions. However, even though most people recognize the utility of such tools, there are still many questions to be answered about their reliability and their impact on society. For example, to what extent can we or should we trust what ChatGPT says? Should chatbots ever be used in legal decision-making? What is the role that NLP should play in the education system? In this open-ended seminar, we will read and discuss opinions on the proper use of NLP in the real world, or as we term it, NLP in the wild!

Time: Wednesday 12-14h

Location: CAB G 52


Course Structure and Schedule

The structure of this seminar is one of open-ended debate. Cum tempore, the seminar starts at 12:15. However, the teaching staff kindly requests the participants to arrive at 12:05 so we can arrange the desks in a circle. The purpose of this seminar is not to be lectured at by the instructor, but rather for the participants to learn about the views of their peers and discover hitherto unnoticed agreements and disagreements with them on the proper use of NLP in society. Each week, there will be a topic under discussion. The week before, the lecturer will select a series of texts that represent different viewpoints pertaining to that topic. One or two students will take the lead in arguing the “pro” side and one or two students will take the lead in arguing the “con” side. Grading is purely based on participation. Note we must return the classroom to its normal state after we leave, so we may wrap up 5 to 10 minutes early to re-arrange the room.

Week Date Topic Presenter Reading
1 21.02.24 No Lecture
2 28.02.24 Intro
3 6.03.24 Can Chatbots Act as Ethical Agents ? Jiang et al. (2021), Talat et al. (2022), Metz (2021)
4 13.03.24 Legal NLP Valvoda et al. (2023), Medveva et al. (2020), Zhong et al. (2020), Milmo (2023)
5 20.03.24 Will AI make journalism obsolete? Glockner et al. (2022), Caswell (2023), Hanna and Bender (2023), Bühler and Moser (2018-2024)
6 27.03.24 AI Regulation Bengio et al. (2023), Altman (2023), The Council of the European Union (2024)
7 3.04.24 Easter Break
8 10.04.24 Coding with LMs Poesia et al. (2022), Austin et al. (2021), Meyer et al. (2019)
9 17.04.24 Coding with LMs (Pt. 2) Poesia et al. (2022), Austin et al. (2021), Meyer et al. (2019)
10 24.04.24 Coding with LMs (Pt. 3)
10 1.05.24 No Lecture
10 8.05.24 Earley's Algorithm (Pt. 1) Opedal et al. (2023), Stolcke (1995), Earley (1968)
10 15.04.24 Earley's Algorithm (Pt. 2)



Ryan Cotterell

Assistant Professor of Computer Science

ETH Zürich

Teaching Assistant NLP in the Wild