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COMP 491/492

Dickinson College Computer Science Senior Seminar

Ethics and Tech

Overview

Discussion of ethics in technology and in particular approaches to the issue involving the humanities and the liberal arts. This discussion will provide a backdrop against which to place our studies of social, legal and ethical issues this semester.

Readings

Supplemental Readings

Discussion Questions

Post to Moodle a response to at least one of the following questions. You are encouraged to also read and respond to your classmates postings, and to make additional posts adding your own thoughts or raising your own questions for discussion. Your posts will help shape the discussion that we have during the class period.

  1. In the Programmers are having a Huge Discussion article “Uncle” Bob argues that “…developers better figure out how to self-regulate” but as the programmers’ stories show, requirements and pressures often come from above. Who holds the moral responsibility for the code that is created and the damage that is done in these situations? Why?

  2. The articles Why Computer Science Needs the Humanities and Liberal Arts in the Data Age argue that many of the failures of tech and computing can be tied back to a lack of humanist perspective. The first goes so far as to say computing’s culture of chasing “what ‘could’ be done over what ‘should’ be done” dehumanizes others, excusing “the harm done to them as mere collateral damage in the pursuit of fame, fortune and glory.” Do you agree with this characterization of tech culture and the attributed cause? Why or why not?

  3. The article The Humanities Can’t Save Bit Tech From Itself reinforces the prior to pieces, arguing that there is a need for broader more inclusive teams, practices and structures in computing. But it argues against their assertions, saying that “we must be honest about what can realistically be accomplished by … piecemeal attempts at stitching together sociocultural expertise into technical teams and organizations that ultimately hold all of the power.” If the inclusion of more diverse expertise, including the humanities, is a path toward more equitable, more socially responsible tech, how do we get there?

Thought Questions

These are for you to think about and we will include them in our discussion during class.

  1. What social / legal / ethical issues in technology would you like to discuss during the rest of this semester?

  2. What social / legal / ethical issues surround the project you are working on?