CSC 208 Ethics in Technology

Paul Sisul

Office: CDM 714
Fall 2019-2020
Class number: 12569
Section number: 401
TuTh 10:10AM - 11:40AM
LEWIS 01110 Loop Campus


Computing Technology and the rapid pace in which it has advanced have had a tremendous impact on our lives. Changes have been swift and the human capacity to deal them limited. It has been said that our technology has outpaced our humanity. This course will research the new responsibilities technology presents and our ability to deal with these changes in an ethical manner. Students will employ a framework for ethical analysis, which integrates computer science and ethics, to develop the skills required to examine different sets of assumptions and question them, resulting in an informed evaluation of issues. Philosophies covered: Kant, social contract, Rawls, moral rights, virtue ethics, Mill?s harm principles, Feinberg?s offense principle (ride on the bus thought experiment), and utilitarianism.


1. Print edition of: Birsch, Douglas. (2014) Introduction to Ethical Theories, A
Procedural Approach. IL:Waveland Press, Inc. ISBN: 1-4786-0670-3; ISBN: 978-1-
2. (Free Online) Abelson & Ledeen & Lewis (2008) Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty,
and Happiness After the Digital Explosion. NY:Addison-Wesley Professional, ISBN
0137135599. Download for free at:
3. Handouts/links for original texts.
4. Access to the news. Possible sources: New York Times, Chicago Tribune, The Wall
Street Journal, CNN, MSN, Time, Newsweek, PC World, or online newsgroups. You
may find newspapers, journals, and magazines at the library or online.

1. Optional purchase: Quinn, M. J. (2017) Ethics for the Information Age, 7th edition.
NY:Pearson/Addison Wesley. ISBN-13: 978-0-13-429654-8; PowerPoint slides will be
provided on D2L.


The class consists of Computer Science (CS) majors and Non-CS majors. Although the level of technical content will be kept low, there will, at time, be supplementary reading list for CS majors. Note, the most effective way to learn to think critically is in small groups.

10% Four Labs designed to be completed during class (Meets PID Learning outcomes #1 through 6).

20% Reading Responses/ 3 to 5 Quizzes/HW (Meets PID LOs #1 through 6). Reading Responses. Questions on the reading assignments will be posted on the course website and are due at the start of class.

10% Approximately 5−9 Current Events (Meets PID LOs #1 & 2). Students will be required to identify the computing ethical issue only; no additional writing required. Current Events may not be submitted late.

20% Midterm Paper with mandatory rewrite and presentation (Meets PID LOs #1 through 6 and the writing requirement). One 7?10 page (doubled spaced) ethical analysis paper on an approved, relevant issue explicitly applying the ethical theories in order to compare philosophies. You may work alone, or in groups of 2 or 3, on this paper. The first draft of your paper is worth 50 points; you will receive full credit for a complete draft submitted by the due date. The final draft/rewrite is worth 100 points. I will explicitly look for improvements in your rewrite. You will present your paper (10 to 15 minutes). The presentation is worth 50 points.

30% Take home Final Exam (Meets PID LOs #1 through 6). Students will write their own personal code of ethics annotated with justification using the procedures studied (approximately 5 pages, single spaced).

10% Attendance & Class Participation (PID LOs #1 through 6). See policies above.


No previous knowledge of computers or philosophy is assumed, or necessary.


Detailed instructions for all assignments will be posted on D2L.
Full syllabus and week by week details can be found in the URL above.

Introduction to course; review syllabus; a brief history of computing.
Reading assignments will be posted on D2L.
Birsch, Chapter 1. Woodford, Chris. (2016, January 9). A Brief History of Computers. Retrieved from:

Reading and response questions will be posted on D2L, but will not be collected.
Read Quinn, Chapter 2. An introductory examination of ethical issues, philosophical theories, and ethical procedures used for ethical analysis.
Lab 1: We will meet on Monday, April 15, in the lab, Lewis Center 1308.
Topic: Fake news and freedom of speech; Rousseau; Mill; Feinberg. LAB 1 DUE: Apr 19
Complete the Lab Group Evaluations today and keep the file for the next 3 labs.
**Reading Response 3 due April 19 to D2L. Reading assignments will be posted on D2L. Readings include, but are not limited to, Birsch Chapter 7 Moral Rights Theory; sections of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract; Rawls's Theory of Justice; John Stuart Mill's Harm Principle; Joel Feinberg's Offense Principle
Lab 2: We will meet on Monday, April 22, in the lab, Lewis Center 1308.

Topic: Intellectual Property; Virtue Ethics; Rule Utilitarianism. LAB 2 DUE: Apr 26, Friday
**Reading Response 4 due Apr 26 to D2L. Reading assignments will be posted on D2L. Readings include, but are not limited to, Birsch, Chapter 8 Aristotle?s Ethical Theory; Birsch, pages 76-77 & Rule Utilitarian pages 83-84; John Stuart Mill (1863) Utilitarianism.
Lab 3: We will meet on Monday, April 29, in the lab, Lewis Center 1308.

Topic: Computer Reliability and Network Security LAB 3 DUE: May 3, Friday
**Reading Response 5 due May 3 to D2L. Reading assignments will be posted on D2L. Readings include, but are not limited to, sections of Bentham?s Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation; Quinn?s PP Chapter 8; Skim Abelson & Ledeen & Lewis, Chapter 4.
Lab 4: We will meet on Monday, May 6, in the lab, Lewis Center 1308.

Topic: Information Privacy and Government Privacy; Kant LAB 4 DUE: May 10
**Reading Response 6 due May 10 to D2L. Reading assignments will be posted on D2L.
Readings include, but are not limited to, Birsch Chapter 6; Abelson & Ledeen & Lewis pages 32?35; Sections from Kant?s Groundwork for the Metaphysic of Morals; Quinn?s PPs for Chapters 5 & 6.
Movie: The Traveling Salesman, shown in class Mon, May 13
Reading assignments and response questions will be posted on D2L.
Decision Making; Professional Ethics; Work and Wealth; Current Events
Reading assignments and response questions will be posted on D2L.
Readings include, but are not limited to, Birsch, Chapter 4 & 10; Ethics of Whistleblowing Link posted on D2L.
Possible Current Event; Presentations
Possible Current Event; Presentations Possible Current Event; Presentations
Final Exam is due During Finals week; details will be posted on D2L.

School policies:

Changes to Syllabus

This syllabus is subject to change as necessary during the quarter. If a change occurs, it will be thoroughly addressed during class, posted under Announcements in D2L and sent via email.

Online Course Evaluations

Evaluations are a way for students to provide valuable feedback regarding their instructor and the course. Detailed feedback will enable the instructor to continuously tailor teaching methods and course content to meet the learning goals of the course and the academic needs of the students. They are a requirement of the course and are key to continue to provide you with the highest quality of teaching. The evaluations are anonymous; the instructor and administration do not track who entered what responses. A program is used to check if the student completed the evaluations, but the evaluation is completely separate from the student’s identity. Since 100% participation is our goal, students are sent periodic reminders over three weeks. Students do not receive reminders once they complete the evaluation. Students complete the evaluation online in CampusConnect.

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

This course will be subject to the university's academic integrity policy. More information can be found at If you have any questions be sure to consult with your professor.

Academic Policies

All students are required to manage their class schedules each term in accordance with the deadlines for enrolling and withdrawing as indicated in the University Academic Calendar. Information on enrollment, withdrawal, grading and incompletes can be found at

Students with Disabilities

Students who feel they may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the instructor privately to discuss their specific needs. All discussions will remain confidential.
To ensure that you receive the most appropriate accommodation based on your needs, contact the instructor as early as possible in the quarter (preferably within the first week of class), and make sure that you have contacted the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) at:
Lewis Center 1420, 25 East Jackson Blvd.
Phone number: (312)362-8002
Fax: (312)362-6544
TTY: (773)325.7296