Ethical Issues in Technology
Fall 2018


Course Description

Welcome to 191CICS1: Ethical Issues in Technology. In this class, we will develop a framework for discussing ethics and what it means to be ethical. Then we will read technology related news articles and case studies that have ethical implications in today's world. During our seminar-style classes, we will be discussing these readings, talking about their pros and cons, and how users/developers should think about tackling ethics in technology.

Meeting Times

There are 4 sections for this seminar. Depending on which one you signed up for, the meeting times and location are as follows:

  • Mon 04:00 PM - 05:00 PM, Hasbrouck Lab Addition 104A
  • Mon 05:30 PM - 06:30 PM, Hasbrouck Lab Addition 104A
  • Tue 04:00 PM - 05:00 PM, Hasbrouck Lab Addition 106
  • Tue 05:30 PM - 06:30 PM, Hasbrouck Lab Addition 106
  • Syllabus

    Homework will consist of weekly readings; you will be graded on writing assignments/in-class quizzes based on the readings, class discussion and attendance. Here is the course syllabus.

    Tentative Schedule

    Date Topic In-class Assignments Homework
    09/04
    09/10
    Intro to the Course - -
    09/11
    09/17
    Kant & Utilitarianism - Read the Quartz article It’s impossible to lead a totally ethical life—but it’s fun to try; Read the Wikipedia article about the Ethics of Technology; Read Yonatan Zunger's first 20 or so tweets on his thoughts on ethics in computer science.
    09/18
    09/24
    Contractarianism & Virtue Ethics - Watch this YouTube video on Contractarianism; Watch this YouTube video on Virtue ethics.
    09/25
    10/01
    Intro to AI & ML Link to the in-class exercise Read Chapter 1.1-1.2 of Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig's famous textbook on AI here; Read Chapter 1.1-1.2 of Hal Daumé's book on ML here.
    10/02
    10/09
    What is bias in AI? - Read the Jacobite article titled AI 'Bias' Doesn't Mean What Journalists Say It Means and take a look at the cool visualization of the article; Read Attacking Discrimination with Smarter Machine Learning to which the authors of the first article refer.
    10/15
    10/16
    Tech Use in Politics Link to the in-class exercise Letter responses due October 14th by midnight. Here are the assignment instructions and the following folders are where you can find your letters: Monday 4:00pm section, Monday 5:30pm section, Tuesday 4:00pm section, and Tuesday 5:30pm section.
    10/22
    10/23
    Bias in Crime Link to the in-class exercise Watch the video on Predicting the future of crime; Read the ProPublica article on Machine Bias; Read the NY Times article titled Even Imperfect Algorithms Can Improve the Criminal Justice System.
    10/29
    10/30
    Self-driving Cars - Read MIT Tech Review article on Why Self-driving Cars Must Be Programmed to Kill; Read the Quartz article titled Philosophers are Building Ethical Algorithms to Help Control Self-driving Cars; Read the Bloomberg article titled Don't Worry About the Ethics of Self-Driving Cars.Write 2-3 paragraphs (in total) summarizing the articles and include questions/reactions to each piece.
    11/05
    11/06
    Information Privacy Law
    Guest Lecture by Albert Williams
    Class will be from 5:30pm-6:30pm in CS150 on 11/05 for the Monday sessions, and from 5:30pm-6:30pm in CS150 on 11/06 for the Tuesday sessions in the Computer Science building. Read Daniel J. Solove's article on information privacy law here. Write 2-3 paragraphs summarizing the article, including questions/reactions.
    11/13
    11/14
    Automation Link to the in-class exercise -
    11/26
    11/27
    Net Neutrality
    Guest Lecture by Rachee Singh
    Class will be from 5:30pm-6:30pm in CS151 on 11/26 for the Monday sessions, and from 5:30pm-6:30pm in CS151 on 11/27 for the Tuesday sessions in the Computer Science building. TBA
    12/03
    11/04
    Digital Surveillance - Read The National Geographic article titled They Are Watching You — and Everything Else on the Planet; Read two articles from The Atlantic, The Undemocratic Spread of Big Brother and Even Bugs Will Be Bugged. Write 2-3 paragraphs summarizing the articles, including questions/reactions.
    12/10
    11/11
    TBA - TBA


    Thank you Marc Liberatore, Su Lin Blodgett and Eva Hudlicka for fruitful discussions and pointers to articles/resources!