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Bina48, one of the worlds most advanced social robots. Photo courtesy of Bina48 Facebook page

Bina48, the first-ever robot to complete a college course, finished another mission today: It became the first robot to co-teach a university-level class.

Why it matters: The experiment at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point sought to determine if AI can "support a liberal education model," says William Barry, a West Point professor who has been using Bina48 to teach for years.

What’s happening: Bina48 co-taught two sessions of an introduction to ethics philosophy course — which covers ethical reasoning, just-war theory and the use of artificial intelligence in society. In the classroom were almost 100 students, along with Barry and Maj. Scott Parsons, an assistant professor at West Point.

The objective was to understand whether AI “can authentically support teaching in the classroom, where it enhances students’ comprehension and holds interest," Barry says.

How it works: Bina48 is fed a mosaic of general knowledge, in the form of what Barry calls "mind files."

  • In preparation for today, AI developers fed Bina48 troves of data about war theory and political philosophy, in addition to Barry's lesson plan.
  • “We asked not to hook her on the internet ... because she can easily run to Wikipedia or the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. We want to run her just on the algorithm,” Barry says.
  • When it's Bina48's turn to teach, it peruses its background knowledge and lesson plan and delivers a lecture. And if a student asks a question, the bot can reply out loud.

After today’s class, Barry tells Axios the cadets were wholly receptive:

“Before the class, they thought it might be too gimmicky or be entertainment. … They were blown away because she was able to answer questions and reply with nuance. The interesting part was that [the cadets] were taking notes.”

But the bot may not be best suited for West Point, the cadets concluded, since it didn’t quite keep pace with the class. It might make a greater impact in countries with low literacy rates, he says.

Flashback: This is not Bina48's first interaction with West Point students. Last year, it participated in a debate about the use of nonlethal weapons in warfare.

Go deeper

European Super League faces collapse after English soccer teams quit

Fans of Chelsea Football Club protest the European Super League outside Stamford Bridge soccer stadium in London, England. Photo: Rob Pinney/Getty Images

The European Super League announced in a statement Tuesday night it's "proposing a new competition" and considering the next steps after all six English soccer clubs pulled out of the breakaway tournament.

Why it matters: The announcement that 12 of the richest clubs in England, Spain and Italy would start a new league was met with backlash from fans, soccer stars and politicians. The British government had threatened to pass legislation to stop it from going ahead.

Corporate America finds downside to politics

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Corporate America is finding it can get messy when it steps into politics.

Why it matters: Urged on by shareholders, employees and its own company creeds, Big Business is taking increasing stands on controversial political issues during recent months — and now it's beginning to see the fallout.

Church groups say they can help the government more at border

A mural inside of Casa del Refugiado in El Paso, Texas. Photo: Stef Kight/Axios

Despite the separation between church and state, the federal government depends upon religious shelters to help it cope with migration at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Why it matters: The network supports the U.S. in times of crisis, but now some shelter leaders are complaining about expelling families to Mexico when they have capacity — and feel a higher calling — to accommodate them.