Bringing Ethics Into Computer Science at Harvard

Computer scientists and philosophers are working together at Harvard to bring ethics into computer science courses.

Barbara Grosz, a computer science professor, and Alison Simmons, a professor of philosophy, have “developed a model that draws on the expertise of the philosophy department and integrates it into a growing list of more than a dozen computer science courses, from introductory programming to graduate-level theory,” according to The Harvard Gazette.

The collaboration began in 2015 when Grosz created “Intelligent Systems: Design and Ethical Challenges,” a course she team team taught with members of the philosophy department that ended up being very popular.

Now, the collaboration is formalized in a program called “Embedded EthiCS” and involves a team of faculty and graduate students. Embedded EthiCS develops course modules on various subjects that are integrated into the computer science courses. Current modules include “Facebook, Fake News, and the Ethics of Censorship,” “Privacy in the Design of Data Systems,” and “The Ethics of Hacking Back,” among other subjects.

Grosz says, “Ethics permeates the design of almost every computer system or algorithm that’s going out in the world. We want to educate our students to think not only about what systems they could build, but whether they should build those systems and how they should design those systems.”

Sculpture by Julie Alice Chappell

Links: Embedded EthiCS site;  The Harvard Gazette article.

Related: “Computer Science Ethics: A Growth Area for Philosophy?

(via Gaurav Vazirani)

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Daniel Propson
5 years ago

This is excellent! Thanks for passing it on, Justin.

Reyes E.
Reyes E.
5 years ago

Great post! Great collaboration!