ECS 188 – Ethics in an Age of Technology – Course Information – Winter 2015
- I am Phillip Rogaway, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please see my homepage, www.cs.ucdavis.edu/~rogaway, for office hours.
My office is in 3009 Kemper.
- There are two sections:
- Section 1 is MWF 12:10-1:00 in Bainer 1132.
On Wednesday we will sometimes go until 2 pm.
- Section 2 is MWF 3:10-4:00 in Physics 148.
On Wednesday we will sometimes go until 5 pm.
- Please go exclusively to your scheduled section.
- The course web page
contains important information:
it is where your assignments are posted, as well as announcements.
It’s a click away from my homepage.
You need to check the page frequently; I will assume that whatever gets announced there is seen by all.
- There is an obligatory final for this class.
See our online course schedule for when it is.
- There are no prerequisites for this class.
You must be willing to read a lot,
to write some, and to
prepare and give a reasonable presentation.
An open mind,
a critical disposition,
politeness in listening to others,
a genuine interest in mankind
will also serve you well.
I target the course towards junior/seniors undergraduates.
For science and engineering students, I recommend taking this class after
you have completed the
upper-division writing and public-speaking requirements (if any) that
your college or major requires.
We will be using an online
course reader that I’ve put together.
Each day, you must bring the relevant reading(s) to class.
This is necessary because, for example,
I may ask you to read a passage aloud, or to explain some particular section of the reading.
You may bring the readings either as hardcopy or on a tablet.
The tablet solution will you only if you have
the ability to highlight and mark-up pdf documents.
You may not use a conventional laptop or smart phone during class.
The course material will be broad, open-ended, and unlike
anything else the begins with the letters ECS
Most of the class time will be spent with you guys talking.
At the end of the term, your evaluation will state the following:
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.
The grading criteria this term is:
Quizzes will not be announced. There will be a lot of them;
most days will begin with one.
The final paper and oral presentation will be on a topic of your choice, and you
will work in pairs on it. The final exam slot will
be used both for student presentations
(assuming some students want this time slot)
and an exam.
Requirements to pass the class include taking (and passing) the final exam and
not missing an excessive number of classes.
- attendance/participation (20%) (non-linear),
- quizzes + homeworks (40%),
- final paper + oral presentation (20%), and a
- final (20%).
The grades I assign for this class tend to be high relative to other classes
I teach; if you understand the readings, do the assigned work,
and come to class each day, you should do fine.
Proofread all writing for clarity, coherence, organization, diction,
spelling, punctuation, and typestting.
Write, rewrite, and rewrite again.
While you won’t write that much in this class, I expect
you to write in a manner
consistent with being an upper-division student at a strong US university.
If you’re used to teachers who ignore “low-level” English
issues because “ideas are all what matters,” or some such nonsense,
beautiful ideas are inextricably tied to beautiful expression
of those ideas;
second, I find it rude to subject a busy person to
poor writing—and rudeness and ethics are, if not
siblings, certainly close cousins.
You may consider it part of my odd character that
I get extremely distracted—to the point that I won’t be able to attend
to meaning—by bad typsetting or bad English mechanics.
All written assignments done outside of class must be typeset.
I encourage use of LaTeX and discourage
use of Word.
(A free LaTeX implementation for PCs is MiKTeX.
There are many others.)
You must use
you may not use a
sans-serif font (eg,
For reasons I don’t understand,
students have a hard time following these requests, which creates a big problem for me, for when I see
a page of ragged-right Arial, that, really, is all that I can see.
Years of frustration over students not abiding by this request
has led me to adopt a simple policy:
I won’t grade work that violates these requirements.
Other typsetting problems that drive me crazy:
typewriter quotes (“this” not "this");
typewriter apostrophes (author’s> not author's);
and wrong dash lengths (you’re all smart enough to learn the difference between
an em-dash, en-dash, and hyphen).
It also drives me crazy when students refer to the authors we are reading by their
first name, a phenomenon that seems to have emerged quite recently.
It has made me imagine a plague of high school English teachers lecturing on
William’s Macbeth or Charles’ Great Expectations (or shall
we call them Bill and Chuck?).
Each day, please arrange your desks in a circle before class begins.
Put your card in front of your desk.
I don’t really recognize human faces and
the name cards are my trick that, eventually,
I start to feel like I know who you are.
Sitting in the same position each class is also helpful for me.
For a discussion class like ours, coming late is disruptive; please arrive on-time.
For purposes of marking attendance, you are counted as half here if you arrive late.
In a course in ethics, it would be particularly ironic if people are dishonest.
But it happens, so I had better say some things in this connection.
All writing you do must be entirely your own (you can ask a friend or writing instrutor
to proofread your work and make suggestions on better writing, but it shouldn’t go beyond that).
Your talk likewise must be entirely your own work: you may not rework related talks that you find.
Please acknowledge all ideas and quotations;
use proper referencing.
Obviously you may not purchase (nor find online) your paper or presentation.
(Of course you can, and even should, talk to people
about what we are reading or talking about.)
If you have done a related project before, or if you will use your project
for overlapping classes, you need to discuss that possiblity with me (usually I will not
allow this). For a book-based project, you need to disclose if you have already
read the book (usually I will not allow this, either).
If I pass around a sign-in sheet, it is an instance of academic misconduct to
sign-in for someone else (or to ask someone to do this for you).
Similarly, turning in an assignment for someone else (or asking them to do it for you)
is academic misconduct (unless you’ve clearly indicated that you’re absent).
Finally, it is an instance of academic dishonesty to claim that you
missed a class because of an illness you didn’t have.
I hate writing referrals to SJA, but I do make
a policy to reporting anything untoward to them.
If everyone comes to class having done the reading
and feeling ready and eager to talk about it, the class works well.
As with any seminar-format class,
you and I share the responsibility for making the class succeed.
Please take your responsibility in this connection as seriously as I do.
In truth, the class is a (rather unusual) opportunity that should not be lost:
where else are you seriously invited
to stop, step back, and explore the (sometimes grave) ethical issues
that we face as technologists and human beings — and with
someone who is not only a “serious” scientist,
but actually cares about these things?
I don’t see the topic of this course as an entirely “academic” undertaking;
in fact, I have no patience or respect for moral philosophy as an academic discipline stripped
of the imperative to care and to act.
My class deliberately does not stay within the
traditional confines of “computer ethics”.
If you’ve come expecting some tedious prof to implore
you not to use file-sharing networks to get your music,
or whatever else you might imagine to be the ethical issues of interest to people in
a Computer Science department, forget it;
that’s not what this class is about.
What I myself would like is for both of us to come out of the course not just
a little more knowledgeable, but, maybe, slightly better, wiser, or more socially engaged.
That’s a lot to hope for from a class.
Let’s see if it’s possible to do anything in that direction.
Phillip Rogaway’s homepage