Sunday, May 28, 2017

Python Meets Plato: Why Stanford Should Require Computer Science Students to Study Ethics; Stanford Review, May 15, 2017

Antigone Xenopoulos , Stanford Review; Python Meets Plato: Why Stanford Should Require Computer Science Students to Study Ethics

"Ethical questions inevitably arise with innovation. But they are often an afterthought. Simplistic justifications can often replace serious ethical consideration. For example, when the tension between privacy and security is perceived as zero-sum, privacy often takes the backseat. With clients demanding quick turnaround, and engineers often lacking a profound understanding of civil liberty concerns, privacy often falls through the cracks. While software requires us to consider both privacy and security, the two issues are still perceived as mutually exclusive. Take the Apple v. FBI fight last year, for example. To whom did Apple owe its allegiance? Its clientele, the government, or itself? Should the firm have prioritized national security or consumer privacy?
Schools like Stanford should work to change this mindset by including an ethical requirement for engineering degrees. Stanford should require Computer Science majors to take a course on computer and information ethics...

Engineers aim to improve the human condition and improve people’s livelihoods. If computer scientists do not consider the moral consequences of their inventions, they will always fall short of achieving this goal. Neither technology nor innovation exist in a bubble. Stanford ought to require computer scientists to study computer and information ethics. Giving students the tools to create harm, without giving them the tools to understand it, is itself unethical."

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