Ethical Considerations, Risks and Opportunities of AI

IB Diploma Programme
Aug 30, 2023

The Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course is unique; it is one of the differentiators that set the IB Diploma apart from other educational programmes. TOK asks students to learn in a different way, teaches them different skills, and is assessed via different tasks. Further, TOK presents schools with a framework for discourse that expands their thinking beyond textbooks and focuses on real-world examples.

Throughout the years, school communities have been consistently challenged by technological change, from the introduction of the personal computer and smartphones to the shift to online learning during the pandemic and the associated risks that come with engagement in the online space. Now we are witnessing the dawn of a new age and another significant societal shift in the form of Artificial Intelligence. The remarkable speed at which AI has exploded onto the scene and into every walk of life is sending shock waves through all industries, including, of course, education. We are all trying to figure out what this technology means for education and beyond.

The TOK framework provides an ideal platform for students to approach artificial intelligence critically.

TOK is a suitable forum to explore the ethics, risks and opportunities of AI whilst simultaneously educating students about its uses. The TOK framework provides a valuable lens through which we can critically examine AI in education. TOK encourages us to explore the foundational aspects of knowledge, evaluate perspectives, and analyse the implications of different knowledge claims.

The IB has recognised both the promise and the challenge, stating, “The IB believes that artificial intelligence (AI) technology will become part of our everyday lives, […] We need to adapt and transform our educational programmes and assessment practices so that students can use these new AI tools ethically and effectively..” (1)

TOK provides us with the perfect setting in which to use and explore AI tools, and get to grips with this technology that has completely upended the traditional ways we seek and acquire knowledge about the world.

The TOK course consists of three interlinked elements: the core theme, the areas of knowledge, and the optional themes.

Tok Img

1. The Core Theme: Knowledge and the Knower

This core theme explores questions about the nature of knowledge, how it is acquired, and how it is influenced by personal and cultural factors. When exploring AI’s ethics, risks and opportunities, students can analyse how AI systems interpret and gather information, and the role of human biases in AI algorithms. It is also extremely important to consider how different cultures shape the information and perspectives that are delivered by technology.

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2. Areas of Knowledge

TOK identifies various areas of knowledge, such as the natural sciences, the human sciences, the arts, history, ethics, mathematics, and more. The areas of knowledge provide different lenses through which students can examine the impact of AI:

Ethics: This area is particularly pertinent when discussing the ethical implications of AI. Students can explore questions about the moral responsibilities of AI developers and the potential consequences of AI decisions on human lives.

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Mathematics and Natural Sciences: Students can investigate the technical elements of AI, including algorithms and machine learning. They can explore how these mathematical concepts shape AI’s capabilities and limitations, as well as the potential biases that might arise from the data used for training AI models.

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Human Sciences: This area helps students understand the psychological, sociological, and cognitive dimensions of AI. They can analyse how AI systems affect human behaviour, influence decision-making, and raise questions about the concept of consciousness and intelligence.

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3. Optional Themes

The TOK course also includes optional themes that can be a platform for a deeper exploration of specific knowledge-related issues. In the context of AI:

Technology and Knowledge: This theme addresses the interplay between technology and knowledge acquisition. Students can discuss how AI technology both enhances and challenges our understanding of what knowledge is and how it is obtained.

Knowledge and the Natural Sciences: Here, students can analyse AI’s role in advancing scientific knowledge and innovation, while also considering potential ethical challenges in using AI for scientific discovery.

Knowledge and Ethics: This theme directly relates to the ethical considerations surrounding AI. Students can explore the ethical frameworks used to guide the development and performance of AI and critically assess the potential risks and benefits.

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The elements of the TOK course can serve as a comprehensive framework to analyse the ethics, risks and opportunities of Artificial Intelligence. By examining these concepts through different areas of knowledge and optional themes, students can develop a well-rounded understanding of AI’s impact on society, whilst also critically evaluating the knowledge claims and ethical dilemmas associated with this rapidly evolving technology.

When TOK and real-world examples come together, that is when you can genuinely ignite the learning opportunities of this course. It is this combination that makes TOK utterly relevant to students and benefits the entire school community as it can be used to navigate extremely sensitive topics.

At we believe in using real-world examples to bring TOK to life for our member schools. And as we update our resources monthly, the topics are always timely. Recently, we have been busy updating our resources to include an AI add-on to our lessons, which can be bolted on, or not, depending on the current policies of your school. We are rapidly expanding all our resources to support the inclusion of an AI element in the lessons. You can see an example here:

About the Author


Michael Dunn and Alice Pfennig

As well as heading up TOK departments in schools and teaching Humanities, Michael Dunn has established a reputation as a leading TOK educator globally through the development of an integrated approach to TOK using questions as the teaching framework. Michael designs and shares engaging, provocative, and creative classes, driven by events and issues that are going on in the world right now.

Alice is the marketing and communications manager who focuses on supporting teachers and organisations to improve their TOK provision. She has a work history in EAL teaching and the pharmaceutical industry.
Visit their website to find out more, view a selection of free resources or sign up for the free monthly newsletter.
Connect with Michael on LinkedIn or via email at



  1. IB. “Statement from the IB about ChatGPT and artificial intelligence in assessment and education”. Accessed 23rd August 2023.