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On the Importance of Teaching Professional Ethics to Computer Science Students

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Abstract

In recent years there has been an increase in the general public awareness of the ethical aspects of technology. The attention given by the media to computer-related disasters in technical systems such as the explosion of the Ariane 5 rocket in 1996 and the Therac-25 computerized radiation machine overdoses has stimulated interest in Computer Ethics. Most engineering is performed within profit-making organizations operating within a complex structure of societal and regulatory constraints. Engineering has a direct and vital impact on the quality of life of people and the services provided by engineers are required to take into consideration the safety, health and welfare of the public. Engineering Ethics is therefore of relevance to the majority of people within Computing. Research Ethics or Educational Ethics apply to those professionals in Computing who are active within research and education. Other branches of Ethics such as Healthcare Ethics and similar may apply to other Computing professionals. The field of Computing has its own particular ethical problems that are important to address and therefore Computer Ethics has developed as a specific field of study. It is vital to recognize that prudent ethical judgment is a crucial, integral part of professional computing skills. A code of professional ethics appears when an occupation organizes itself into a profession. It is central to advising individual professionals how to conduct themselves, in judging their conduct, and to an understanding of a profession. The aim of this paper is to shed light upon the significance of teaching ethical issues in the field of Computing. It argues that education in ethics should be incorporated into computing curricula. Experience from the course Professional Ethics in Science and Engineering given at Mälardalen University in Sweden is presented.
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... Consequently, their algorithms would inherit the discriminations and produce flawed outcomes, which can scale uncontrollably over computer systems. By contrast, research has shown that possessing ethical knowledge allows developers to withstand pressure from business concerns and appreciate the significance of cleaning data and removing biases (Dodig- Crnkovic 2003). ...
Preprint
In recent years, the availability of massive data sets and improved computing power have driven the advent of cutting-edge machine learning algorithms. However, this trend has triggered growing concerns associated with its ethical issues. In response to such a phenomenon, this study proposes a feasible solution that combines ethics and computer science materials in artificial intelligent classrooms. In addition, the paper presents several arguments and evidence in favor of the necessity and effectiveness of this integrated approach.
... Computer technologies play a crucial role in the society; as a communication tool, a source of entertainment, a governmental medium, and as an information system in industry, research, and medicine. It is, therefore, necessary to ensure that this diverse use of technology could not harm human values but in fact protects and advances them (Dodig-Crnkovic, 2004). Every society has got different rules of ethics which have been founded consequent to consensus in that society and are often translated into laws regarding computer crimes and computer fraud. ...
... In a pragmatic spirit moral responsibility is considered to be the obligation to behave in accordance with an accepted ethical code [Sommerville, 2007], and it is relevant as long as it influences the behavior of individuals who have been assigned responsibilities [Dodig-Crnkovic, 2005]. In Software Engineering practice e.g. ...
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Chapter
Luciano Floridi’s Information Ethics (IE) is a new theoretical foundation of Ethics. According to Floridi, ICT with all informational structures and processes generates our new informational habitat, the Infosphere. For IE, moral action is an information processing pattern. IE addresses the fundamentally informational character of our interaction with the world, including interactions with other agents. Information Ethics is macro-ethics as it focuses on systems/networks of agents and their behavior. The IE’s capacity to study ethical phenomena on the basic level of underlying information patterns and processes makes it unique among ethical theories in providing a conceptual framework for fundamental level analysis of present globalised ICT-based world. It allows computational modeling – a powerful tool for study which increases our understanding of informational mechanisms of ethics. Computational models help capturing behaviors invisible to unaided mind which relies exclusively on shared intuitions. The article presents an analysis of the application of IE as interpreted within the framework of Info-Computationalism. The focus is on responsibility/accountability distribution and similar phenomena of information communication in networks of agents. Agent-based modeling enables studying the increasing complexity of behavior in multi-agent systems when agents (actors) are ranging from cellular automata to softbots, robots and humans. Autonomous, learning artificial intelligent systems technologies are developing rapidly, resulting in a new division of tasks between humans and robots/softbots. The biggest present-day concern about autonomous intelligent systems is the fear of human loss of control and robots acting inappropriately and causing harm. Among inappropriate kinds of behavior is the ethically unacceptable one. In order to assure ethically adequate behavior of autonomous intelligent systems, artifactual ethical responsibility/accountability should be one of the built-in features of intelligent artifacts. Adding the requirement for artifactual ethical behavior to a robot/softbot does not by any means take responsibility from humans designing, producing and controlling autonomous intelligent systems. On the contrary, it will make explicit the necessity for all involved with such intelligent technology to assure its ethical conduct. Today’s robots are used mainly as complex electromechanical tools and do not have any capability of taking moral responsibility. But technology progress is remarkable; robots are quickly improving their sensory and motor competencies, and the development of artifactual (synthetic) emotions adds new dimensions to robotics. Artifactual reasoning and other information processing skills are advancing – all of which is causing significant progress in the field of Social Robotics. We have thus strong reasons to try to analyze future technological development where robots/softbots are so intelligent and responsive that they possess artifactual morality alongside with artifactual intelligence. Technological artifacts are always part of a broader socio-technological system with distributed responsibilities. The development of autonomous, learning, morally responsible intelligent agents relies consequently on several responsibility feedback loops; the awareness and preparedness for handling risks on the side of designers, producers, implementers, users and maintenance personnel as well as the support of the society at large which will provide a response on the consequences of the use of technology. This complex system of shared responsibilities should secure a safe functioning of hybrid systems of humans and intelligent machines. Information Ethics provides a conceptual framework for computational modeling of such socio-technological systems. Apart from examples of specific applications of IE, interpretation of several widely debated questions, such as the role of Levels of Abstraction, naturalism and complexity/diversity in Information Ethics, is offered through Info-Computationalist analysis.
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Conference Paper
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Chapter
In this chapter, seven experts from the games industry and from academia discuss late-breaking and big picture trends in ethics and games. Rather than deep analyses of the issues, these brief perspectives introduce main ideas related to current problems in ethics and games. These quick takes open up discourse on timely topics and ask questions that will lead to new research streams. A microcosm of the entire book, these quick reflections telegraph the themes that will emerge in the rest of the book. First, Mia Consalvo will discusses decision making in Dragon Age; next Greg Costikyan talks about Diplomacy and how game mechanics support ethical behavior. Drew Davidson then provides a meditation on the value of games, Nick Fortugno talks about ethics and Farmville, and educator David Shaenfield looks at new ways to support citizenship skills through gaming. Finally, designer Pete Vigeant gives his personal take on Red Dead Redemption and Bethesda Softworks founder and MIT professor Christopher Weaver unpacks controversies surrounding games.
Conference Paper
At first glance ethics and technology seem to have no interaction. However, we see the influence of ethics on technology both from the profession and the public. For example the "code of professional ethics" has changed the procedures in different parts of science, engineering and technology, and has given a particular direction to the types of projects done, their scope, and implementations. The sensitivity of consumers to choose moral values has also resulted in the change of direction for many technologies. Public participation in science and technology and the legal channels are the other factors that shape the influence of ethics on technology. More controversially on the other side we see the impact of technology on ethics. One can argue how and why some of the most abstract ideas like normative ethical theories or Kantian ethics have been reactions to the advancements in science and technology. Additionally, the effects of technological change have greatly influenced modern relativistic ethics. Technology has provided new possibilities for human life and created new ethical questions too. In a sense, "applied ethics" is the product of technological development. A different view of the ethics of science and technology is discussed and analyzed in this paper.
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Conference Paper
As a global community we are facing number of existential challenges like global warming, deficit of basic commodities, environmental degradation and other threats to life on earth, as well as possible unintended consequences of AI, nano-technology, biotechnology, and similar. Among world-wide responses to those challenges the framework programme for European research and technological development, Horizon 2020, have formulated the Science with and for Society Work Programme, based on Responsible Research and Innovation with a goal to support research contributing to the progress of humanity and preventing catastrophic events and their consequences. This goal may only be reached if we educate responsible researchers and engineers with both deep technical knowledge and broad disciplinary and social competence. From the perspective of experiences at two Swedish Universities, this paper argues for the benefits of teaching professional ethics and sustainable development to engineering students.
Conference Paper
Ethical understanding and binding of members play an important role in the establishment of a fair and happy society. Whereas the ethical responsibility is more important for all technical professionals it becomes crucial for computer graduates. Because other technical professional interact more with the human and their activities are more visible to the society. Whereas computer graduates mostly interact with machines and many of the activities may not be visible easily or timely to other members of the society. Therefore, sound understanding and binding of the ethical values are essential for the computer graduates. The work is looking into the importance of ethical values inculcation in computer graduates, the state of ethical education in the computer curricula in the conventional learning systems and in the e-learning environments, and the agents which play a role in the ethical development of students. The work would also provide suggestions on how to inculcate ethical values in computer graduates based on the data and information collected from the students, teachers, academic experts and relevant members of the society.
Article
The purpose of this essay is to determine what exactly is meant by the claim computer ethics is unique, a position that will henceforth be referred to as the CEIU thesis. A brief sketch of the CEIU debate is provided, and an empirical case involving a recent incident of cyberstalking is briefly considered in order to illustrate some controversial points of contention in that debate. To gain a clearer understanding of what exactly is asserted in the various claims about the uniqueness of computer ethics, and to avoid many of the confusions currently associated with the term ``unique'', a precise definition of that term is proposed. We then differentiate two distinct and radically different interpretations of the CEIU thesis, based on arguments that can be found in the relevant computer ethics literature. The two interpretations are critically analyzed and both are shown to be inadequate in establishing the CEIU thesis. We then examine and reject two assumptions implicit in arguments advanced both by CEIU advocates and their opponents. In exposing and rejecting these assumptions, we see why it is not necessary to accept the conclusions reached by either side in this debate. Finally, we defend the view that computer ethics issues are both philosophically interesting and deserving of our attention, regardless of whether those issues might also happen to be unique ethical issues.
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