Senior Project Seminar is a part of every Hope Computer Science major’s last year. In this course, a good majority of the time is spent learning about and practicing the task of building a large software application, or performing a large research study. A significant portion of the class is also devoted to a discussion of ethical issues that students might encounter in their careers.

Today was a beautiful early Fall day, and so we took advantage of the opportunity to discuss questions like:

  • To what extent should you be concerned about characteristics of a customer who is using your technology?  Under what, if any, circumstances should such concerns prevent you from doing business with that customer?  Would the company share any moral responsibility for large scale efforts to suppress freedom of speech?
  • Suppose that you are a programmer for Volkswagen, and you were either asked to write the software that detected when emissions testing was being performed, or stumbled upon it as part of other tasks.  What do you think your ethical duty would be in this scenario?  What, if any, factors might prevent you from doing it?  How would you choose to handle this scenario?
  • What do you think individuals’ responsibilities are to help ensure a diverse workforce?  What (perhaps unintentional) behaviors / ideas might be contributing to the lack of diversity in the tech workforce?

As the world becomes increasingly dependent on software and hardware systems, it’s critical that our young computer scientists get a chance to think about these questions before they enter the workforce.

Want to share your experiences involving questions of ethics in the tech world with our students?  Share it via a comment and we’ll be sure to pass your thoughts along to the students!

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