News  |    |  April 11, 2019

Stanford tech ethics course urges students to move responsibly and think about things

Video by Kurt Hickman . Runtime 3 minutes.

News article by Melissa Dewitte. Published in the Stanford News.


In the course CS 181: Computers, Ethics and Public Policy, Stanford students become computer programmers, policymakers and philosophers to examine the ethical and social impacts of technological innovation.

In a fictitious policy memo to Stanford campus leadership, students enrolled in CS 181: Computers, Ethics and Public Policy laid out their thoughts about how to regulate campus vehicles in a future where autonomous vehicles are prevalent – how fast should they go, how to handle jaywalkers or what to do in the event of a crash. Although imaginary, the proposal forced students to consider the complexities of technological innovation.

That assignment was one of several students tackled as a way of exploring the various dimensions of technology’s impact on people and society from the perspective of a policymaker, computer programmer or philosopher. Students also probed tradeoffs between privacy and security, simulated how political polarization occurs on social media and discovered how bias can emerge in a decision-making algorithm. [ . . . ]