Ethics and Computer Science
Syllabus, lectures, and other materials — Fall 2018

NOTE: Due to Hurricane Michael, your first written exercise is now due the week of October 22-26 rather than October 15-19. Also, your midterm has been rescheduled to November 2.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: Due to Hurricane Michale, your second written exercise is now due the week of December 3-7.

From Oxford Online, we find these definitions:

   philosophy: The study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.

   ethics: Moral principles that govern a person's behaviour or the conducting of an activity.

Syllabus and schedule


Written Presentation 2

Written Presentation 2

Class notes

Reading assignment for weeks 1 and 2

Spinello, chapter 1 "The Internet and Ethical Values"

Plato's Euthyphro (audio version is available here.)

Excerpt from Mill's Utilitarianism

Excerpt from Kant's Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals

Reading assignment for weeks 3 and 4

Spinello, chapter 2 "Regulating and Governing the Internet"

Reading assignment for weeks 5 and 6

Spinello, chapter 3 "Free Speech and Content Controls in Cyberspace"

Reading assignment for weeks 7 and 8

Spinello, chapter 4 "Intellectual Property in Cyberspace"

Reading assignment for weeks 9 and 10

Spinello, chapter 5 "Regulating Internet Privacy"

Reading assignment for weeks 11 and 12

Spinello, chapter 6 "Securing the Electronic Frontier"

Other material

Obligatory xkcd collection:


Research Ethics


Trolley Problem


The Three Laws of Robotics

Various Ethics-oriented Resources

Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science

Collection of ethical code URLs from NC State

Computer and Information Ethics (in particular, see the Uniqueness debate between Maner and Johnson)

Virtue Ethics

Deontological Ethics


Bynum: Computer ethics: Its birth and its future

Nick Bostrom: Superintelligence

Isaac Asimov: I, Robot

Norbert Weiner: The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society (abbreviated HUHB in the notes.)


Excerpt from The Grand Design episode of "Yes, Prime Minister"

The Future of Employment (PDF)

How Aristotle Created the Computer

Worth Noting Now

2018-08-26: ACM releases new revision of its code of ethics

Older News Items

2017-01-09: Do you own your own fingerprints?

2017-01-09: Makers of Self Driving Cars Ask What to Do With Human Nature

2017-01-09: Driverless Cars: Who Gets Protected

2017-01-09: The social dilemma of autonomous vehicles

2017-01-09: Save the Driver or Save the Crowd?

2017-01-09: Dallas Shooter Killed By Bomb Robot In Policing First

2017-01-11: Finding inspiration for art in the betrayal of privacy

2017-01-11: A view from the White House on the impact of automation on the economy

2017-02-15: New Office Sensors Know When You Leave Your Desk

2017-02-15: Algorithms Secretly Run the World

2017-02-15: Weapons of Math Destruction

2017-02-20: Fearful of Hacking, Dutch Will Count Ballots by Hand

2017-02-21: It is too easy to steal a second-hand connected car

2017-03-08: Wikileaks Vault 7, Year 0

2017-03-27: A Call to Let's Encrypt: Stop Issuing "PayPal" Certificates

2017-03-27: Let's Encrypt Has Issued Certificates to Over 14,000 PayPal Phishing Sites

2017-03-27: Let's Encrypt Are Enabling the Bad Guys and Why They Should

2017-03-27: Bill Gates Versus the Robots

2017-03-27: The End of Labor: How to Protect Workers from the Rise of Robots

2017-03-28: After 12 Rejects, Apple Accepts App that That Tracks U.S. Drone Strikes

2017-03-29: Automation is set to hit workers in developing countries hard (Fourth Industrial Revolution)

2017-03-29: WhatsApp must be accessible to authorities, says Amber Rudd

2017-03-29: No 10 Repeats Rudd's call for authorities to access encrypted messages

2017-03-29: The Importance of Strong Encryption to Security

2017-04-10: Vigilanteism: How to force manufacturers to take IOT security seriously

2017-04-10: Autonomity: Robot Surgeon Bests Human Surgeons

2017-04-10: Hand-to-hand cyberwar

2017-04-10: If animals have rights, should robots also?

2017-04-10: World Economic Forum's Top 9 Ethical Issues in Artificial Intelligence

2017-04-10: Machine Ethics: The Robot's Dilemma

2017-04-11: The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI

2017-04-11: China Moves to Further TIghten Regulation of Digital Information

2017-04-11: Chinese Firm Cuts Costs by Hiring Army of Robots

2017-04-12: Florida's current Good Samaritan statute

2017-04-12: Three Challenges for the Web

2017-04-12: Computing and Moral Responsibility

2017-04-14: Russian Humanoid Robots Learns to Shoot

2017-04-17: Uber for Carjacking

2017-04-17: Can Liberty Survive the Digital Age?

2017-04-17: United States Air Force Demonstrates Autonomously Controlled F16

2017-04-17: OpenRobotEthics

2017-04-17: Autonomous Weapons

2017-04-17: Autodraw

2017-04-17: Autodraw review

2017-04-17: Rules for Robots?

2017-04-17: Should Autonomous Cars Be Forced to Save Lives?

2017-04-17: Robots and Agriculture

2017-04-19: Hajime, mo

2017-04-19: Apple Removes New York Times Apps from Its Store in China

2018-08-27: An artist warns of our robot-ruled future. Or is it our present?

2018-08-29: Botched CIA communications system help blow cover of Chinese agents

2018-08-30: Taiwan and crowdsourcing laws

2018-08-31: Can Beethoven send takedown requests?

2018-09-05: City of Tallahasse Ethics Board

2018-09-05: City introduces new ethics ordinances

2018-09-05: City of Tallahassee Code of Ethics

2018-09-14: Gizmodo: Google is helping the Pentagon build AI for drones

2018-09-14: BuzzFeed's coverage of the Google ethics quandaries

2018-09-14: Academia speaks out about Project Maven

2018-09-14: Google's code of ethics for its participation in AI projects

2018-09-14: Google and Project Maven

2018-09-14: The Intercept's Dragonfly article

2018-09-14: New York Times: Google tried to change China; will China instead change Google?

2018-09-14: Telepathy with drone swarms

2018-09-17: Artificial Intelligence: The revolution has not happened yet

2018-09-19: Menlo Report: Ethical Principles Guiding Information and Communication Technology Research

2018-09-19: Ethical Considerations in Network Measurement Papers

2018-09-19: Hide and Seek: Tracking NSO Group's Pegasus Spyware to Operations in 45 Countries

2018-09-19: SAP's Ethics and AI Stance

2018-09-19: Microsoft's Approach to AI

2018-09-19: The Ethics of Data Flow

2018-09-20: At the farm, the boss is an AI-powered algorithm

2018-09-21: DARPA wants brain interfaces for able-bodied warfighters

2018-09-21: Facebook must correct misleading terms of service

2018-09-21: The glamorous life of a professional video gamer

2018-09-21: Code of conflict to code of conduct?

2018-09-21: Code of Conflict

2018-09-21: Code of conduct

2018-09-24: Leave no dark corner

2018-09-24: China's use of big data might actually make it less big brother-ish

2018-09-24: China's social credit system seeks to assign citizens scores, engineer social behavior

2018-09-26: China's Orwellian social credit system is expanding overseas

2018-10-01: Don't get distracted

2018-10-01: No cash needed at this cafe

2018-10-03: Cornell food researcher's downfall raises larger questions for science

2018-10-05: AI World 2018: Healthcare Track

2018-10-05: Nurse by phone

2018-10-05: AI and healthcare (Wired article)

2018-10-05: Humans need not apply?

2018-10-16: Gartner Picks Digital Ethics and Privacy as a Strategic Trend for 2019

2018-10-23: International Privacy Conference

2018-10-24: Tim Cook makes blistering attack on the "data industrial complex"

2018-10-25: Europe's new copyright law could change the web worldwide

2018-10-25: Europe considers a new copyright law

2018-10-25: Legal AI?

2018-10-25: AI generates portraits and profits

2018-10-25: Responsible technology? Who decides?

2018-10-25: Future warfare: no human needed (Do we need a new definition of warfare?)

2018-10-25: Future of Life Institute

2018-10-29: EU's link tax will kill open access and creative commons news

2018-10-29: A living hard drive: this GIF was stored in the DNA of bacteria

2018-10-29: Baidu's AI can do simultaneous translation between any two languages

2018-10-29: Duplication-correcting codes for data storage in the DNA of living organisms

2018-10-31: Ethical implications of artificial and the role of governmentts

2018-10-31: DOD official highlights value of artificial intelligence to future warfare

2018-10-31: Project Maven to deploy computer algorithms to war zone by year's end

2018-10-31: Robot Wars

2018-11-05: Tool does not work

2018-11-07: Facial recognition advances

2018-11-07: Facebook admits that it was used to incite violence in Myanmar

2018-11-07: Nothing exceeds like excess; or, a lack of privacy in the digital age

2018-11-07: Gait recognition

2018-11-16: AI for APTs

2018-11-16: 'I don't really want to work for Facebook' say some computer science students

2018-11-26: A Case of Digital Sovereignty?

2018-11-26: Wired Story on the same subject of spying

2018-11-26: Dawn of the Code War

2018-11-26: How I changed the law with a github pull request

2018-11-26: Open Law Library?

2018-11-27: We are Google employeess, Google must drop Dragonfly

2018-11-28: Google attacks mosquito-borne disease

2018-11-28: Inside Sellafield's death zone with the nuclear clean-up robots

2018-11-28: Some Googlers support Project Dragonfly

2018-12-05: Chatbots: Civic Danger?

2018-12-05: Computations as Propaganda?

2018-12-05: Big Brother becomes Big Algorithm?

2018-12-05: Is ethical technology a farce?

2018-12-07: Alphazero shedding new light on chess, shogi, and go"

2018-12-07: Science article on Alphazero's superhuman successes