Students “need to understand the basiccultural, social, legal, and ethical issuesinherent in the discipline of computing.”
of American computer science programs include SPI in curriculum                                       (Social and Professi...
of international computer science programs include SPI in curriculum
However
of all ITiCSE or SIGCSE papers in past decade on SPI
Teaching SPI within computinghas been dominated by a veryspecific analytic approach. p           y     pp Can you spot it?...
ArticulateA     lthe impacts of ICTandethically evaluatethose impacts
Almost all ofthese b kth    booksfollow asimilaralgorithmicmethodology
It is not hardto seethe attraction of thisapproachforf uscomputer professors
The “many gray areasof computer ethics areoften frightening …to professorswho are worriedabout how to answerthings of whic...
of SPI courses taught by computer science faculty
Some have indeed argued thatusing this algorithmic methodologyprovides a sense of security and confidencefor nervous CS fa...
I am going to argue that boththis algorithmic methodologyandthe theoretical understanding of the relationship betweentechn...
I will try to convince you thatwe need to move away from                   ythe ethical evaluation of impactsand insteadem...
In particular, the way we teach SPI materialneeds to integrate the decades-old insightsof researchers in the philosophy, h...
The common way of seeing technology is thatit is akin to a cue ball       k            b llimpacting or altering the rest ...
In this perspectivekey technological inventionshave transformed the world.h         f    d h      ldThus new technologiesn...
This approach to technologyis generally referred to asTechnological DeterminismT h l i lD t        i i
Dependent Variables(society, politics, economy, psychology, etc)                                determines                ...
Studying technological determinismSt d i t h l i l d t         i i   is like        measuring the tread marks             ...
It is understandablewhy computer professionals findtechnological d     h l i l determinism attractive.                    ...
It feeds our   to beclear desire   socially               relevant
… and our desireto believe that wecomputer geeks  kare the driver ofsocial change, and             g ,not politicians,busi...
Most current historians and sociologists of technologyfirmly reject technological determinismbecause it istheoretically in...
The well-established academic field ofscience,science technology and society (STS) studies(that began in the 1960s)has tim...
economy                    history                                         technology          culturesociety             ...
1. Empirically f l1 E        ll false2.2 Not used by STS research community3. Naively focused on functional capabilities  ...
functional capabilities?Most technological deterministic impact prognosticators do their workby looking at the functional ...
In all these cases – and practically any other set of prognostications andimpact evaluations than begin from an unquestion...
The introduction of household technologydid not end up creating,in the words of Ruth Schwartz Cowan,less work for mother,b...
Efficient internet search-engineshave notresulted in people withtoo much knowledge;instead,i      dunpredicted changes in ...
The introduction of anti-lock disc brakeshave notreduced accidents at all,because drivers tend to drive faster and tailgat...
Depending upon how failure is defined,anywhere from 50 to 90% of ERPs havebeen categorized as failures.OthersO h report ov...
The first stepThen we should take in ourSocial and Professional Issues coursesis to communicate how rarelytechnologies ach...
The revenge effect of technologyis extremely well documentedyetit is uncovered in any of thecomputer ethics textbooks exam...
One way to achieve this goalwould be by beginning the SPI coursewith examples and readingson how certain vital technologie...
This more historically-nuancedapproach to technology and societyis what is generally calledsocial constructivism   i l    ...
In this approach,one looks at how technologies areresearched,invented,financed,financeddeveloped,adopted,marketed,and prop...
In other words,our SPI courses shouldlook more like ahistorical sociology courseand a lot lesslike a philosophic ethics co...
2   Importance of Uncertainty
The reason revenge effects occuris due to the fact that“socio-technological transformation socio-technologicalis a highly ...
But in moral philosophy             p      p y  and computer ethics in particular uncertainty is underappreciated.   This ...
Typical problems or dilemmas yp     pfor which macro-ethical approaches areapplied are most often done in acontext of comp...
The ethics of technology,by contrast,should be recognizedas residingini a contextof at least partial            puncertain...
Furthermore
the degree of uncertaintyis greaterforf emerging t h l i           i technologies      and the more complex the technology...
o1 o2 o3 = different development trajectoriest1 = time one                              y = specific technology   x = eval...
The evaluating agentmust have knowledgeof the development trajectoryin order to morally evaluate it.
Unfortunately,Unfortunatelywe very often cannot knowthe actual developmenttrajectory at time t1
And if we guess one based onfunctional capabilities we willusually pick the wrong trajectory.
It might be more helpful and                                                  important to understand which(this requires ...
In the early years of the 1990s, thecomputers and society literatureprovided ethical evaluations of avariety of trajectori...
3   Beyond    Moral Evaluation
This paper has argued thatmoral evaluation in theuncertain realm ofsocio-technologicalsocio technological changeshould onl...
The alternative approachfor our SPI coursesshould be disclosive ethics.
Rather than applyingbig ethical theoriesto lt clear and well-known impacts,             d w ll k w i       tthe focus shou...
We can in fact satisfy the CS-2008 SPI area by guiding our students in the unpacking of the     normative assumptions of c...
ThisThi approach is not about evaluating the           hi     t b t      l ti thrightness        or         wrongness     ...
Rather, it is about opening upthe bl k box of h black b       f                   technological practice                  ...
ACM recognizes that it is equally important for students to appreciatethe historical and social context as it is to perfor...
It is time for us to transform theway we teach the SPI area, so itis more in tune with the actualACM recommendations.(as w...
Doing so would makeour SPI courses much morefocused on thef      d thsocial contexts of computinganddsignificantly less fo...
Randy ConnollyDept. Computer Science & Information SystemsMount Royal University, Calgary, Canada         y           y,  ...
Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula
Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula
Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula
Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula
Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula
Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula
Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula
Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula
Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula
Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula
Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula
Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula
Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula
Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula
Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula
Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula
Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula
Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula
Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula
Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula
Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula
Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula
Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula
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Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula

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Presentation for my talk at the 2011 ITiCSE (Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education) conference in Germany.

My paper and talk critique the most common way of teaching the social and professional issues part of the computer science curriculum, which is to focus on the ethical evaluation of "impacts" caused by computing technology.

This presentation argues that this approach has a number of drawbacks. First, it is based on a technological deterministic style of social explanation that has been in disrepute in the academic social sciences for decades. Second, it uses an algorithmic approach to ethics that simplifies the social complexity and the uncertainty that is the reality of socio-technological change.

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Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula

  1. 1. Students “need to understand the basiccultural, social, legal, and ethical issuesinherent in the discipline of computing.”
  2. 2. of American computer science programs include SPI in curriculum (Social and Professional Issues)
  3. 3. of international computer science programs include SPI in curriculum
  4. 4. However
  5. 5. of all ITiCSE or SIGCSE papers in past decade on SPI
  6. 6. Teaching SPI within computinghas been dominated by a veryspecific analytic approach. p y pp Can you spot it? y p
  7. 7. ArticulateA lthe impacts of ICTandethically evaluatethose impacts
  8. 8. Almost all ofthese b kth booksfollow asimilaralgorithmicmethodology
  9. 9. It is not hardto seethe attraction of thisapproachforf uscomputer professors
  10. 10. The “many gray areasof computer ethics areoften frightening …to professorswho are worriedabout how to answerthings of whichthey themselves areunsure.”
  11. 11. of SPI courses taught by computer science faculty
  12. 12. Some have indeed argued thatusing this algorithmic methodologyprovides a sense of security and confidencefor nervous CS faculty teaching an SPI course
  13. 13. I am going to argue that boththis algorithmic methodologyandthe theoretical understanding of the relationship betweentechnology and society that it is based uponare d deeply fl l flawed. d
  14. 14. I will try to convince you thatwe need to move away from ythe ethical evaluation of impactsand insteademphasize h ithe social context of computing
  15. 15. In particular, the way we teach SPI materialneeds to integrate the decades-old insightsof researchers in the philosophy, history, and sociology of technologythat emphasizes a very different approach to SPI.
  16. 16. The common way of seeing technology is thatit is akin to a cue ball k b llimpacting or altering the rest of society
  17. 17. In this perspectivekey technological inventionshave transformed the world.h f d h ldThus new technologiesneed to be analyzed to understand thewide changes they will enact.
  18. 18. This approach to technologyis generally referred to asTechnological DeterminismT h l i lD t i i
  19. 19. Dependent Variables(society, politics, economy, psychology, etc) determines Independent Variable Technological Ch T h l l Change
  20. 20. Studying technological determinismSt d i t h l i l d t i i is like measuring the tread marks after the bulldozer has rolled over us
  21. 21. It is understandablewhy computer professionals findtechnological d h l i l determinism attractive. i i iWe are the people helping to inventnew technologies
  22. 22. It feeds our to beclear desire socially relevant
  23. 23. … and our desireto believe that wecomputer geeks kare the driver ofsocial change, and g ,not politicians,business people, orcelebrities.
  24. 24. Most current historians and sociologists of technologyfirmly reject technological determinismbecause it istheoretically inconsistentandempirically under-supported p y pp
  25. 25. The well-established academic field ofscience,science technology and society (STS) studies(that began in the 1960s)has time and time again found that whenexamined carefully i d f llmost technologies rarely have had the effectthat was expectedorhad the transformative impact people claim.
  26. 26. economy history technology culturesociety politics
  27. 27. 1. Empirically f l1 E ll false2.2 Not used by STS research community3. Naively focused on functional capabilities y p
  28. 28. functional capabilities?Most technological deterministic impact prognosticators do their workby looking at the functional capabilities of a given technologyand then imagining the impact of those functions.
  29. 29. In all these cases – and practically any other set of prognostications andimpact evaluations than begin from an unquestioned beliefthat the functional capabilities of a technology (i.e., themeans) do what is promised (i.e., achieve their ends) –the expected social impactsended up being wildly wrongbecause the prognosticatorsbelieved in anaïve technological determinism.
  30. 30. The introduction of household technologydid not end up creating,in the words of Ruth Schwartz Cowan,less work for mother,butin factmore workbecause of a series of social changes that could not hb f i f i l h th t ld t have b beenpredicted if one limited one’s analysis just to the functionalcapabilities of the household technologies.
  31. 31. Efficient internet search-engineshave notresulted in people withtoo much knowledge;instead,i dunpredicted changes in how people interactwith words and even possibly cognitive declinedue to the brain s plasticity brain’shave arguably resulted in the exactopposite consequence
  32. 32. The introduction of anti-lock disc brakeshave notreduced accidents at all,because drivers tend to drive faster and tailgate moreclosely due to the improved braking technology andalso partly because of increases in the intensity oftraffic due to unexpected changes in urbangeography.
  33. 33. Depending upon how failure is defined,anywhere from 50 to 90% of ERPs havebeen categorized as failures.OthersO h report over 70% achieve few of hi f fthe objectives expected of them.There are even examples where bankruptcy trusteesTh l h b khave blamed the adoption of ERP software for thefailure of the business as a whole.
  34. 34. The first stepThen we should take in ourSocial and Professional Issues coursesis to communicate how rarelytechnologies achieve their promise promise,and indeed,how many do the opposite.
  35. 35. The revenge effect of technologyis extremely well documentedyetit is uncovered in any of thecomputer ethics textbooks examined f hi b k i d forthis presentation.
  36. 36. One way to achieve this goalwould be by beginning the SPI coursewith examples and readingson how certain vital technologies had littleimpact on some societies,oron how certain technologies were stronglymodified and differently adapted in y pdifferent cultures and countries.
  37. 37. This more historically-nuancedapproach to technology and societyis what is generally calledsocial constructivism i l i i
  38. 38. In this approach,one looks at how technologies areresearched,invented,financed,financeddeveloped,adopted,marketed,and propagatedwithin a very complex systemgenerally referred to as society.
  39. 39. In other words,our SPI courses shouldlook more like ahistorical sociology courseand a lot lesslike a philosophic ethics course.
  40. 40. 2 Importance of Uncertainty
  41. 41. The reason revenge effects occuris due to the fact that“socio-technological transformation socio-technologicalis a highly complex processwhich involves many uncertainties ” uncertainties.
  42. 42. But in moral philosophy p p y and computer ethics in particular uncertainty is underappreciated. This is an important issue since substantive moral theories such as deontology and utilitarianism h d l d ili i i require clear information about effects in order to make ethical judgments.
  43. 43. Typical problems or dilemmas yp pfor which macro-ethical approaches areapplied are most often done in acontext of complete knowledge.This is appealing for computer scientists,who often work with problemsmodeled by idealized abstractionsfor which complete knowledge is possible.Function PerformEthicalEvaluation() If (you do action x) then  y people will be harmed  but z people will be benefited End If Return EthicalEvaluation(y,z)End Function
  44. 44. The ethics of technology,by contrast,should be recognizedas residingini a contextof at least partial puncertainty or ambiguity.
  45. 45. Furthermore
  46. 46. the degree of uncertaintyis greaterforf emerging t h l i i technologies and the more complex the technology the more uncertain we are as to the developmental trajectory of a technology
  47. 47. o1 o2 o3 = different development trajectoriest1 = time one y = specific technology x = evaluating agent teacher student journalist
  48. 48. The evaluating agentmust have knowledgeof the development trajectoryin order to morally evaluate it.
  49. 49. Unfortunately,Unfortunatelywe very often cannot knowthe actual developmenttrajectory at time t1
  50. 50. And if we guess one based onfunctional capabilities we willusually pick the wrong trajectory.
  51. 51. It might be more helpful and important to understand which(this requires skills in sociology and history) trajectories are more likely than to apply a prescriptive ethical j g judgment to a single trajectory. g j y
  52. 52. In the early years of the 1990s, thecomputers and society literatureprovided ethical evaluations of avariety of trajectories that nevermaterialized, such as The disappearance of war f The workless society The elimination of large corporations Citizen control over all aspect of political life
  53. 53. 3 Beyond Moral Evaluation
  54. 54. This paper has argued thatmoral evaluation in theuncertain realm ofsocio-technologicalsocio technological changeshould only be tentative at best.
  55. 55. The alternative approachfor our SPI coursesshould be disclosive ethics.
  56. 56. Rather than applyingbig ethical theoriesto lt clear and well-known impacts, d w ll k w i tthe focus should be on disclosing theassumptions, tivalues,and interests dbuilt into thedesign,implementation,and use of technology.
  57. 57. We can in fact satisfy the CS-2008 SPI area by guiding our students in the unpacking of the normative assumptions of computer practice,which in turn requires clarifying the complex web of interactions that construct the different trajectories a technology may take.
  58. 58. ThisThi approach is not about evaluating the hi t b t l ti thrightness or wrongness of a technological practice
  59. 59. Rather, it is about opening upthe bl k box of h black b f technological practice g p for understanding …
  60. 60. ACM recognizes that it is equally important for students to appreciatethe historical and social context as it is to perform ethical evaluation.
  61. 61. It is time for us to transform theway we teach the SPI area, so itis more in tune with the actualACM recommendations.(as well as more in tune with approaches inother disciplines studying technology)
  62. 62. Doing so would makeour SPI courses much morefocused on thef d thsocial contexts of computinganddsignificantly less focusedon i ethical evaluation. its hi l l i
  63. 63. Randy ConnollyDept. Computer Science & Information SystemsMount Royal University, Calgary, Canada y y, g y,rconnolly@mtroyal.ca Images from iStockPhoto and stock.xchng

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