Computer Ethics

Administrative

Autumn 2021
Time: Wednesdays and Fridays from 3:30 to 4:20pm
Location: OUG 141
Instructor: Dan Grossman (primary) and Jared Moore
Email: djg@cs.washington.edu, jlcmoore@cs.washington.edu
Office hours: by appointment (please do ask to chat!)

Please do not hesitate to write to the instructor about any accommodations or questions related to readings or course material.

Description

Be it social-media platforms, robots, or big data systems, the code Allen School students write—the decisions they make—influences the world in which it operates. This is a survey course about those influences and ways to think about them. We recognize, “the devil is in the implementation details.”

The course is divided into two parts: In the first part, we survey historical and local issues in tech, particularly those concerning data. We then engage with critical perspectives from disciplines such as machine ethics and science and technology studies as a framework for students to articulate their own beliefs concerning these systems. In the second part, we apply these perspectives to urgent issues in applied technologies; see the schedule for the topics we plan to consider this quarter.

Throughout, students hone their critical reading and discussion skills, preparing them for a life-long practice of grappling with the—often unanticipated—consequences of innovation.

We approach topics such as: AI ethics, social good, utopianism, governance, inclusion, facial recognition, classification, privacy, automation, platforms, speculative design, identity, fairness, power and control, activism, and subversive technologies.

We aim to have you feel this course experience is an essential part of your Allen School education despite being (or because it is!) very different from most CSE courses.

Objectives

By the end of this course students will:

  • Obtain awareness of issues arising from the use of computers in contemporary sociotechnical systems
  • Articulate technological harms to individuals and groups in the language of critical perspectives
  • Appreciate how historical, cultural, economic, and political factors contribute to how technologies are built and designed
  • View themselves as both subjects and creators of sociotechnical systems
  • Understand and articulate complex arguments pertaining to values in technology
  • Recognize the diversity of stakeholders and views when considering a technology
  • Amplify voices and values not traditionally considered in technological development (e.g., in design processes)
  • Re-imagine and speculate alternative histories and futures for using and coexisting with computers

Schedule

(may change up to a week in advance)