Introduction. The intended audience for this web page are UC Davis faculty members who will be teaching ECS 188, Ethics in an Age of Technology. My intent is to explain my view of this course and to help “institutionalize” it within our Department.
Before moving on, here are a few quick links that might be useful:
Subjectivity and diversity. Teaching always involves questions of personal and pedagogic philosophy, but teaching a course on ethics-and-technology is different from teaching any other course in our department because, in this case, questions of personal and pedagogic philosophy actually dominate what you do. If this thought feels sort of abhorrent to you, and you instinctively believe that, to the contrary, you can or should or must try to teach the class from a neutral, objective perspective, then I maintain that you are mistaken: there isn’t an objective perspective from which the course can profitably be taught. Even if your approach is to just pick up Deborah Johnson’s book (a popular text on computer ethics) and attempt to teach right out of it, thinking that you stay neutral and objective in this way, you absolutely have embedded your personal sensibilities into this pedagogic choice (in this case I’d say your choice is to teach a pro-technology, narrow-issue, US-oriented course).
Why should questions of personal philosophy be so important to the teaching of ECS 188? Because they’re intrinsically tied up with the topic, impacting questions like: How broadly do you see the subject matter? Do you tend to interpret the significance of technological change primarily from a scientific perspective, a social perspective, an economic perspective? When economic issues do come up, do you believe that a larger or more quickly growing economy is desirable? Do you implicitly assume a stance of of technological optimism or technological pessimism? Are you disproportionately interested in issues that impact rich countries? That impact the USA? Do you cast questions along traditional philosophical lines and, if so, to what philosophical traditions (utilitarianism, deontology, rights, etc.) do you tend to fall back to? One could go on and on. Almost nothing you can say or do in this course can really be said or done divorced of your personal biases.
Since I don’t believe one can escape their personal viewpoints in teaching of this class, I favor being up-front about them. I tell the kids on the first day of class that I’m a rich white guy from the USA; that I’m a leftist radical by US standards; that I have a Jewish mother and an atheist father and that I regard myself as basically Buddhist; that my work is in cryptography; that I was trained by the best people at the most elite schools in the USA. I tell the kids that I have an extremely skeptical disposition, pretty much believing nothing I’ve been told. I tell the kids that I live in Thailand about half the time, and that I do this for reasons not unrelated to the reasons that I choose to teach ECS 188.
Certainly there is no other class in which I make such proclamations. And when, for example, I teach ECS 120 (Theory of Computation), I don’t think that my religious inclinations, say, color what I do. (Well, one could certainly argue that point.) But in ECS 188, my religious inclinations probably do color what I do, and in ways that I myself don’t necessarilly see. So I try to be as clear as possible about who I am.
While you, the teacher, bring your biases into how you run this class, the class itself will be peopled by 20 or so kids (aka students) that will have biases of their own, probably quite different from yours. A good part of making this class work is to instill an atmosphere where the students feel free to develop their ideas and speak their minds. You can and should tell the students on the first day that they are not expected to share your own beliefs, and that they most certainly will not be rewarded in grading for having beliefs like yours, nor punished in grading for having very different beliefs. But really it is not by words that one gets across the message that one can truly speak their mind. Fostering an atmosphere where diverse opinions are freely expressed, argued, and valued is one of your primary jobs as a teacher in this class, and it is not an easy job. I can’t explain exactly how I have tried to do this. The first thing is that it must be true (which isn’t so easy when students are so often expressing opinions that do not feel desirable or valuable). Another aspect is to listen closely when students talk. Another aspect is to create an informal, interesting, and supportive classroom atmosphere. Another aspect is to have readings that reflect a wide range of perspectives. Another aspect is not to talk too much in class.
Think expansively. Once upon a time, ECS 188 was a pretty narrowly circumscribed class in computer ethics. It used the Johnson book I mentioned. The students and the lecturer (we almost never had ladder-faculty teach the class) discussed software piracy, personal privacy, writing of malware, problems that can be caused by buggy code, the ACM code of ethics, and so forth. Trying to learn how the class worked, I myself read much of the book and attended some classes. My take is that the students were bored. The teacher was bored. He smelled like a cigarette. I thought that if I were a student who had been forced to take the class, I’d entertain thoughts of strangling the guy and moving to South America.
The above was a sort of visceral and disproportionate reaction. At first, I couldn’t really figure out where it was coming from. But something felt completely wrong with the basic conception of the course, even if I couldn’t at first articulate what it was.
I think the US invasions of Afghanistan and then Iraq played a role in cementing my thinking and putting it into a clearer perspective. There we were invading two of the poorest and least powerful countries on the planet, using our masterful technology to kill or displace a staggering number of people; and here at UCD we were teaching an ethics-and-technology course (woops, I mean ethics-and-computers course) that’s telling the kids to provde a deontological analysis of software piracy. Finally I saw it for what it was: ranting about a bunch of moral minutia while the vast majority of our efforts—most of them out-of-bounds in a computer-ethics class—stoke the machine.
And certainly it doesn’t end there. At UC Davis most most of our students would be delighted to take a job at LLNL, say, if the pay and benefits were good. (LLNL is a design center for US nuclear weapons.) Most of our student really don’t care one bit about their employer’s institutional aims. They wouldn’t think about it. And if such thoughts did somehow cross their mind, they’d quickly brush it off with some mindless, ready-made excuse.
We live in an age when our technological advances and our collective behaviors associated to these technologies pose a major threat to the continued existence of our species. And we’re telling the kids to worry about the ethical implications of downloading a pirated copy of Britney Spears? Why on earth should the students take us seriously? They can’t be that that stupid.
I know the students like to talk about things like file-sharing networks. And, in 188, we still do. But I think we need to raise the level of discussion. Otherwise we are way too disconnected from what truly matters for human welfare.
I would argue that even when we do treat a traditional computer-ethics topic like privacy, we need to do so in a more political and sociological perspective than is traditional, not simply as a question of an individual ethics. I remember that, after discussing one of the “scenarios” from Sara Baase’s book, a case that involved the unauthorized transferring of some individual’s personal data, a student raised his hand and said something like: “This seems sort of silly. You’ve read about the ATT/NSA wiretapping rooms in Wired magazine? In light of this kind of thing, isn’t it kind of dated to be worrying about some one random employee selling some one guy’s SSN?”
As I began to understand this problem, I realized that the course needed to be completely redone. It needed an orientation that was more sweeping, more challenging, more international, more intellectual, and more sociological. I felt that a narrowly construed course on computer ethics was completely missing the real picture of what are the ethical issues surrounding a bunch of graduating students, most of them emerging technologists.
There are other reasons why an expansive scope seems important for our kids. First, since the kids have no background in the kind of questions asked in this class, focusing on computer ethics is focusing on the narrow with a group of people that have no particular context in which to see these questions. Second, the nature of computer and information technology is to “invade” other technologies—nowadays, computers play an important role in seemingly distant technological matters like biotechnology, communication, health care, transportation, and weapons development. Trying to draw a circle around technologies that are or are not computer-related seems pointless, as nearly everything technological is, at this point, a consumer of, and likely a contributor to, computer and information technology.
Course goals. For teaching evaluations, I last used the following statement:
My goal is to increase your inclination to think about, and act upon, the ethical implications of your personal and professional choices, and our collective work as technologists. I’d also like you to read a lot, to write a fair amount, and to become more comfortable participating in oral discussions and giving an oral presentation.
I might admit to a further goal, sort of implicit in much of what I do or say. It is this. The students taking this course have absorbed, just by living in the USA and by being trained as a scientist/engineer at this university, what are actually quite extreme notions of technological optimism and individualism. I want to challenge the former (since unquestioning technological optimism is at the heart of many of our ails), which I have found inherently involves challenging the latter, too.
I want the students to comprehend (not just be told) that technological choices are value-ridden, and almost always have a dark side to their nature, too. I want them to feel (not just be told) that can does not imply should. These are not our students’ instinctive beliefs. Rather, they know, down to their bones, that technology is good, fun, and desirable. They’re sure that whatever problems technology engenders, technology can fix. Our students also know that engineering issues are, well, engineering issues. We objectively move from requirements to technical solutions. We optimize our little piece, and things work out for one and all.
I want the students to start to see what they do as computer scientists in a broader context. What are they actually working towards? Who benefits, and how? It’s especially important that students be able to see their coming professional choices, including their choice of employers, in a social context. By instinct, they do not see things in this way: for them, it’s all about what you yourself put into it and what you yourself get out of it.
These aren’t just unfamiliar thoughts for our students: it’s no easier nor more common for us faculty members, who, institution-wide, are as narrowly careerist as any group of people I’ve seen. I have no doubt that, most of the time, through most of the messages we send out, we, the faculty, unconsciously help to instill the same careerism in our students that we ourselves represent.
Prem has teased me that my real goal in teaching ECS 188 is to turn students who are about to become happy, hopeful, and eager computer scientists into seriously worried individuals that are inclined to do something else. He’s not entirely wrong. I do want people to practice their craft with an accurate and expansive perspective on what they’re doing, evaluating things with a real attention to human welfare. And this may well make people less happy or optimistic.
How much moral philosophy? The goals I bring to the class, as described above, are not the only goals possible. When Earl Barr taught this class he aimed to raise the level beyond the kind of discussions one hears between friends at a coffee shop. He would like to see our discussion of ethics-and-technology as a small increment in the unending dialectic that characterizes philosophical ethics. So when I taught the course jointly with Earl, about a third of the class was taken on readings in moral philosophy, and in latter parts of the class students were expected to frame their analyses according to the schools of philosophy we had discussed. For example, one considers a question like piracy by trying to understand what the utilitarian point of view might be towards it, a deontological view, a rights-based view, or a virtue-based one. (One school of thought that Earl prohibits the students from invoking is ethical relativism, since Earl believes, and I concur, that it does not engender good discussions or insights.)
I appreciate what Earl was trying to do with this philosophy-centered approach. It places the course more squarely in the intellectual mainstream and makes the course feel rather less subjective. Indeed it makes it feel a bit like a lower-division philosophy course. But I don’t think it works. To me, it seems to lead our students to shallow and overly structured analyses. The schools of thought that we discuss, at least the way that we discuss them, end up sounding pretty stupid. Most moral philosophy shares a common thread of focusing on an individual’s ethics, missing the social perspective in its entirety. It fails to reflect mankind’s moral imperative not to employ technology to destroy the natural world. The philosophical approach seemed to be leading students to hit every screw with a hammer. You get things like OK, so now we are going to give a deontological analysis of why it was wrong for the allies to firebomb Japan, and then a utilitarian analysis of it, ...—and it is almost as if the actual moral dimension of what was done is completely lost.
It’s a personal take, of course, but when I read the articles we give on utilitarianism or deontology, say, the philosophies just sound so silly and, worse, they don’t help me to deal with any serious moral question that I routinely face. Perhaps it would be different if I had a “deeper” understandings of deontology, say, or if we were reading a philosopher that resonates more with my sensibilities, like Hans Jonas. But at this point I suggest going light on the philosophical ethics.
Fear. If you’re teaching ECS 188 for the first time, you might feel scared. I myself was pretty terrified about teaching this class the first time around. And for good reason: this really is a hard course to teach. For me, the hardest course I teach, both in terms of number of hours spent and emotional well-being.
I’ve spent much of the last few years thinking about this class, reading tens of of books and pondering matters with the same seriousness as I did my research. The more time I spend, the more intimidated I become. One reason is that the more you see the more you realize just how vast is the potential literature, and how foreign is the desired approach. To teach the class well, beyond spending some years working in academia and industry as a computer scientist, it would be helpful to have extensive training in history, sociology, philosophy, and the law. It would be helpful too to have several years experience being in charge of discussion-centered classes. A life-long commitment to social activism would also be good. Certainly you should have taken several STS classes. In fact, nobody at UCD is qualified to teach this class.
If the above isn’t cause for trepidation, I’ll explain something more: that your basic sensibilities may be all wrong for teaching this class. Like me, you’ve probably spent most of your life thinking about narrow technical questions. That’s how we got here; as computer scientists, we have a kind of well-honed tunnel vision, a tunnel vision that works in our domain. We use it to create abstraction boundaries that “cut off” the messy real-world and let us to find scientific or technological answers. But this approach to dealing with issues is fundamentally the opposite of what one wants to get across in this course. An ability to solve narrow technical problems and create abstraction boundaries is not the style of thinking that will help solve the problems that we’ve created with our technology. If we are going to engender the kind of thought and human character that will help our students to think about, and act upon, the class of problems that our technology helps to create, it is by encouraging a style of boundless questioning that is informed by science and engineering but is, if anything, antithetical of the style of thinking that we are trained at as scientists and engineers, and that we are used to training others at.
So why are we teaching this class? The paragraph above implies that you should abandon the usual sensibilities of a scientist or engineer when you teach this class. But this is probably difficult or impossible for most of us. So why on earth should we be teaching this class? Can’t the Philosophy Department, or the Law School, or the Technocultural Studies Program, take care of it?
My view is that the question is sort of moot, because the course is on our books, it’s an important class, and I haven’t heard of anyone else being interested to jump in and take it over. My own first choice is that we ourselves do teach this class, but by faculty members with an abiding interest in the social, legal, or ethical issues related to technology. In this ideal world we’d have no problem staffing this class by such people because we, the Computer Science department, would include several such individuals. But that is not our current reality. So, for now, I think it a reasonable second choice that we staff ECS 188 with CS faculty who may not be all that interested in social, legal, or ethical issues, but are at least good teachers and who have humanistic sensibilities.
Readings. One of the most difficult aspects and of teaching this course is deciding on the readings. The readings go a good way towards defining the character of the class. See my still-evolving-anthology Beyond Computer Ethics for where my thinking is currently at.
The first time I taught the class I envisioned that we would not just use the “anthology of mini-readings approach” that is so common in computer-ethics classes—indeed I felt sort of contemptuous of the notion that one could say interesting things about technology-and-ethics in a 10 page excerpt. Besides, I didn’t like the sensibilities of those who had assembled any of the anthologies I had found. So I selected three “real” books and one anthology, and I figured that the students would read a fourth “real” book on their own, as part of their final project.
As you might guess, this plan was overly ambitious. I canceled one of the four assigned books even before we began. This left three books to read together, which was manageable given that the anthology was short. Besides the reasonable but unexciting anthology, I selected a book by the Ian Barbour (a rather wise theologian-cum-physicist) and one by Jeff Schmidt (the sometimes acerbic writing of a young scientist). I thought this was a good class, but the students found the two full-length books overly long for their content. They also though the first book a bit too Christian-heavy. I could see their point, but I still like these two books.
After that term my opinion changed: I came to think that an anthology of short readings actually works well for this class, even if it feels rather anti-intellectual. One might also cover one full-length book, perhaps changing this from term to term, but more than this will not work. Overall, I no longer dislike anthologies, and have been assembling the one I mentioned, Beyond Computer Ethics, for years. The choice of readings was influenced by an old edition of the anthology by Winston and Edelbach, Society, Ethics, and Technology. That book was developed for IDS 252, taught in an STS program at The College of New Jersey. The main problem with the Winston/Edelbach book is that it includes little material directly relating to computing and no material relating to professional ethics. Minimally, therefore, it should be supplemented with readings such as Schmidt, Margolis, and the ACM Code of Professional Ethics.
The reader evolves with the teaching of each class, so please send me your suggested additions, deletions, or changes.
The reading should be relatively heavy, but if you overdo it, it will backfire and the kids will stop reading. I’ve found that 40 pages per Tuesday class meeting is about right, and about 30 pages per Thursday class meeting. But the material (and the typesetting) can make a huge difference (reading 10 pages by Hans Jonas may take longer than reading 50 pages by Jeff Schmidt).
Don’t lecture. For any other class within our department, you sort of stand up there and deliver the course content, spooning your voluminous knowledge into so many empty heads. But ECS 188 isn’t like that. For meeting the course goals described, this just won’t work. Lecturing probably won’t make students more introspective. I don’t think it will make people question long-held beliefs. It won’t help to make anyone a more broad-minded person at the end of the class than they were at the beginning.
There’s another problem with lecturing in this class. You might say that everyone’s perspective counts, but when the professor talks too much, it sends the opposite message: his or her perspective is really what counts. (The medium is the message, as they say.) Lecturing, including a long monologue given from any position in the classroom, undermines the claim of respecting diversity of opinions.
Finally, lecturing on this topic effectively drives the kids into their well-practiced, note-taking, I-just-want-to-get-a-good-grade selves. We’re Pavlovian dogs.
If you’ve never done anything except lecture in class, it’s scary not to lecture—it might even feel tantamount to not teaching. But I promise that not lecturing is not the same as not teaching.
There are a few cases where it seems OK to give a few minutes of lecture. I remember Earl giving a nice 10-minute introduction to a topic in moral philosophy. I remember giving a 10+ minute overview of the US patent process. But I’d guess that the instructor should be speaking for maybe 10% of the time, and preferably less.
My views on how to run this class were influenced by an interesting book by Neil Postman. He envisions a kind of question-centered style of instruction where self-directed students work together to explore some real-world problem. I’ve never managed to replicate what Postman describes, but I’ve always kept it in my mind.
Without lectures, what’s my role? The model is something like this. First, you choose the reading (or a film or whatever; let’s just assume a reading). This is an enormously important part of what you do. Second, you try to create a classroom atmosphere in which the reading can be productively discussed. The discussion should help crystallize the author’s ideas, bring in new perspectives, and relate the ideas to others that have been discussed. Create an atmosphere like a good seminar in contemporary literature, or a good course on film criticism. Try to direct the discussion with gentle nudges. Do not be overly eager to “get the kids back on track” when the discussion wanders off on some odd tangent; the kids need this freedom to take tangents, and often the tangent will be less irrelevant than you think.
Of course there are other activities associated to teaching the class (beyond choosing the course material and nudging along the discussion): one needs to make up and grade plenty of quizzes, give and grade any essays, run the logistics of student presentations, read final papers, and assign grades (an unpleasant thing in any course, but particularly unpleasant for this one).
I do not have lecture notes to pass on to you. I can tell you what I myself do in lieu of making up lecture notes. The night or two before each lecture I read or re-read the day’s reading. I usually highlight my copy, sometimes looking up a bit of related material and looking up any words I don’t know. I scribble random things that go through my head. Usually I write down some questions, in a different color, that can be used to jumpstart a moribund discussion. In general, it’s much more useful to prepare questions about the reading than a summary of what was in the reading. For some reason this simple fact took me quite a while to figure out.
Seating. The arrangement of the physical space is important. The students sit in a reasonably tight circle. I assist in arranging the seats this way but also ask the students to please arrange their seats in a circle before I come in if they get their first. By the third class or so they have this habit. I make sure not to always sit in the “front” of the circle (meaning the side from which the professor normally lectures); I suggest to sit in a random spot on the circle each class.
I would say that it is essential that the chairs are movable. Check that the registrar has not given you a room that has fixed chairs. If you were assigned a room with fixed chairs, you need to immediately ask Melinda to get you a new room. The room also needs to have a working audio-visual setup.
Quizzes. Most days I begin class with a five-minute pop quiz. The main purpose of the quiz is to make sure the students have done the reading. Unless you “force” the students to do the reading, using quizzes or other means, student will soon blow it off, for it is indeed very time-consuming.
Ideally, the quizzes should be structured so that if you’ve done the reading you’ll get everything on the quiz, and in just a few minutes, but if you haven’t done the reading you’ll get nothing on the quiz, regardless of how long you stare at it. I stick to objective questions about what the author did or didn’t say. I let the kids bring any notes they themselves have prepared for the quiz, but the students may not look at the reading itself. I do not put quizzes on line, but I do change the quiz questions each time I teach the class. I do this because the readings are always changing, because I don’t want a culture to develop where students “pass down” quizzes, and because it’s been quick and easy to make up new quiz questions anyway.
A second purpose of the quiz is to get the students in the frame of mind of what they read, so that we can start to talk about it. A third purpose of the quiz is as an alternative to explicitly taking attendance.
An alternative to a quiz is to have the students turn in a summary of the most interesting or most important points from the reading. Another alternative is to have the students turn in questions they had on the reading. Another alternative is to have the students write an essay on the reading. I have used all of these alternatives from time to time. See Summaries, Quotes, or Analyses for some possibilities.
Films. Not every class needs to be a discussion. The last time I taught the class I managed to show four films, all of them excellent. There were Dekalog (part 1), Why We Fight, An Inconvenient Truth, and The Corporation. (Another film I have shown in class is Testament.) Unfortunately, time is short for showing too many films, and the above is already pushing the envelope.
One problem with showing films is that it’s not really practical if they exceed 80 minutes. I have therefore edited out 80-minute portions for Why We Fight, An Inconvenient Truth and The Corporation. The redacted DVDs are all available in my office. Redacting the films has been time consuming, both in terms of material selection and in the mechanics of ripping a selected portion of a copy-protected DVD. A set of tools that I have found to work, under Windows, is “DVD Decrypter” combined with “DVD Shrink” and the Nero suite. You don’t want to know how many hours it took to find a combination of tools seems to do the job. Any day in which you’re going to show a film make sure to go to the room early and set everything up, so you can show the film, starting at the actual beginning, at the press of a button. Once the A/V setup didn’t work and this completely screwed up my first class; I advise to go test it first.
I recommend starting the class with the Dekalog film. Its 52-minute length is perfect for the first class, giving you enough time to introduce the course and then immediately do something interesting. Dekalog #1 is an amazingly complex, apropos, and beautifully crafted piece of filmmaking.
Small-group discussions. I have experimented with small-group discussions followed by small-group presentations. Here are selected scenarios from Baase. Split the class into 3–4 person groups and assign each group a scenario. The group discusses their scenario for 15 minutes or so, decides what they would do, decides which sections of the ACM Code are applicable, and then a student from the group gives a brief description of the scenario and their analysis. The class can challenge their conclusions.
Distributively reading a book. It’s possible to read and discuss a book in a single class. You Xerox the book and divide it into chapters. Give each chapter to two or so students. At the next meeting, a student will present the chapter to the class, taking about 10 minutes. Stop them at some point and have the other student who read the chapter take over. Clearly this mechanism only works if the book’s chapters make sense in isolation, yet work well together as a whole. I did this with Privacy on the Line (2007 edition), and the experiment was a clear success: it gets people speaking and engaged (and I’ve yet to find a short reading for privacy issues that I like).
Presentations and the final. I use the two or three last class meetings, plus most of the scheduled final slot, for student presentations. I strongly recommend using the final for student presentations and a quiz, which I call a final: those two hours should not be wasted. Beware that the the Registrar has sometimes failed to list ECS 188 as having a final. Make sure the students know on day-1 that there is a “final” and when it is. Hopefully this issue will be corrected soon.
In Spring 2006 the course-information sheet said that attendance of the scheduled final was obligatory, but one student complained that the course wasn’t listed on the UC Davis website as having a final, so he said he didn’t have to attend. And he didn’t attend. Earl was inclined to penalize him severely, but I said that we better not do this, as I feared that our process-crazy administration would side with the student. The moral is that we need to make sure that a final is listed on the UC-wide schedule of finals. Melinda is on this.
Final projects. The final project for this class consists of a presentation and a paper. See the project information page for what I provide to the students about the project.
The Dan Gusfield Library of Ethics-and-Technology. On an overflowing shelve in my office are a significant number of books and DVDs that have been acquired by the Department, mostly while Dan was Chair. There are also readings from the “reader” and the redacted DVDs.
Learning student names. It seems important in a course like this one to learn the students’ names. Unfortunately, I can’t do that. But people with conventional abilities in the area should be able to learn the names without making an unreasonable effort.
I do photograph the students and put them on a web page. I bring a printout to class and can then recognize a few of the students. To protect the students’ privacy, use only first names on the web page of photos. The best way to arrange this would again be with a Wiki where the students would fill in their own names.
Grading. Last time I taught the class I made the breakdown attendance (20%), quizzes (plus any other written assignments) (40%), final paper and presentation (20%), and final (20%).
The rationale for including attendance is that, in a seminar-format class, the importance of simply “showing up” is not to be minimized. Note that even without learning the names I am able to take attendance, most days, by recording who takes a quiz or turns in a written assignments, or who failed to pick up returned work.
I have spoken of quizzes already, about my using them as an objective way to determine if the students did the reading. I make the questions short answer (eg, one-sentence), true/false, justified true/false, or multiple choice. Make the quizzes easy to grade; the teaching workload is so high in this class you don’t want extra work grading quizzes.
I usually give a small number of written assignments. Mostly these are essays, 1-2 pages. This is another way to ensure that the students do the reading, as well as a way to give the students some writing practice. It is hard to grade essays, but one must. You may wish to attend some workshop or get a consultation at the TRC about the grading of essays.
I ask that all written work be typeset. I tell the students that I prefer LaTeX but that Word or other typesetting programs are acceptable. I do not allow the use of Arial font or ragged-right margins. For reasons that escape me, many of the students seem unable to abide by this requirement.
Good luck and have fun on this interesting and significant class.