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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Universities Rush to Roll Out Computer Science Ethics Courses

Natasha Singer
The New York Times
Originally posted February 12, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

“Technology is not neutral,” said Professor Sahami, who formerly worked at Google as a senior research scientist. “The choices that get made in building technology then have social ramifications.”

The courses are emerging at a moment when big tech companies have been struggling to handle the side effects — fake news on Facebook, fake followers on Twitter, lewd children’s videos on YouTube — of the industry’s build-it-first mind-set. They amount to an open challenge to a common Silicon Valley attitude that has generally dismissed ethics as a hindrance.

“We need to at least teach people that there’s a dark side to the idea that you should move fast and break things,” said Laura NorĂ©n, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Data Science at New York University who began teaching a new data science ethics course this semester. “You can patch the software, but you can’t patch a person if you, you know, damage someone’s reputation.”

Computer science programs are required to make sure students have an understanding of ethical issues related to computing in order to be accredited by ABET, a global accreditation group for university science and engineering programs. Some computer science departments have folded the topic into a broader class, and others have stand-alone courses.

But until recently, ethics did not seem relevant to many students.

The article is here.
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