Financial Literacy Virtual Voice Assistant; The Power of AI and its Resulting Ethical and Societal Implications

van Beek, Niels, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Ferguson, Sean, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Iqbal, Tariq, EN-Eng Sys and Environment, University of Virginia

Financial literacy is an extremely important skill to have, yet is not being emphasized
enough in today’s society or in our classrooms. As it stands today, only 57% of American adults
are considered financially literate, with only half of K-12 teachers teaching financial literacy in
their classes in some form. This nonchalant disposition toward financial literacy needs to change
because financial literacy can be the key difference between financial freedom and living
paycheck-to-paycheck. The technical thesis explores the application of artificial intelligence (AI)
in teaching financial literacy to K-12 students, while the STS thesis more broadly discusses the
uses of AI presently, and some of the societal dangers that come along with it.
The technical thesis discusses the idea of putting artificial intelligence to use in the form
of a verbal voice assistant in order to teach K-12 students basic financial literacy. This includes
developing lesson plans from national standard benchmarks set for financial literacy, divided by
age group. One developed, these lesson plans would then be placed into an AI voice assistant
system. The goal of the technical thesis is to test the effectiveness of employing AI in a voice
application to teach financial literacy. This goal can then be assessed by collecting metrics from
the AI system and analyzing them to see the robustness of the AI, as well as its ability to deliver
the lesson plan effectively.
The STS thesis explores the societal implications of artificial intelligence within the
context of how powerful it is, as well as its connection to the framework of sociotechnical
systems. The STS research first lays out current and future landscapes of AI, and highlights how
powerful and far reaching these AI systems are. The thesis then explores the ethical and societal
concerns of such a powerful tool, using biases as an example of the ways in which this tool can
be poorly handled at the detriment to our society. Possible solutions to remedy the present issues
of AI are then considered and explored, so as to avoid further problems as AI expands into the
Both the technical and STS theses explore possible use cases and applications of AI with
the goal of employing AI to make our society a better and more equitable place for all to live. I
would like to thank the MITRE corporation for supporting my technical topic, specifically Jyo
Gadewadikar and Jennier Kuczynski, my advisors, Sean Ferguson and Tariq Iqbal, and
especially my Capstone team, Matt, Jesilyn, Candace, and Vinny.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Artificial Intelligence, AI, Financial Literacy, Ethics

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Systems Engineering
Technical Advisor: Tariq Iqbal
STS Advisor: Sean Ferguson
Technical Team Members: Matthew Thompson, Jesilyn Gopurathingal, Vineeth Thota, Candace Miu

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