CS173: Intro to Computer Science - Ethics in Algorithms (100 Points)

Assignment Goals

The goals of this assignment are:
  1. To identify and reason about professional ethics and responsibilities in software and computing

Background Reading and References

Please refer to the following readings and examples offering templates to help get you started:

The Assignment

In this lab, you will work with a group to discuss and report out on an ethical case study. Your group will be assigned a particular case study, but you should read all of them, as we will discuss them together in class.

An important consideration is that we are often called to develop software for areas outside of our expertise. Nevertheless, we must be mindful of appropriate use of data, and we must be able to educate users about the potential ramifications of software misuse or misunderstanding.

Here are the cases [1]:

This lab does not have a programming component; instead, you should develop a brief (5-10 minute) discussion summarizing your case study and your thoughts on the professional responsibilities held by the characters involved. Answer the questions from the case study, but don’t reveal them in your presentation; instead, you will help moderate the class discussion on all of these cases.

What To Submit

You should submit your writeup of your ethical case that summarizes your assigned case(s) and that answers the questions within the case. In addition, you should prepare moderating questions to help start and guide a class discussion: these bullet questions and topics (at least 3), and your initial thoughts on each, should be included in your writeup at the end.

Following the group discussion, please submit a paragraph reflection (as a comment on the submission page) in which you discuss your engagement with the class in the discussion. Specifically, how did you bring yourself to the discussion, and how well prepared did you feel to contribute to conversations and to start new discussion points? How did you contribute to the class’ learning?

  1. These cases/scenarios were developed with support of NSF award #1338205 Ethics of Algorithms (from NSF’s ESEE program). The Principal investigators, Kelly Joyce and Kris Unsworth, conducted fieldwork and interviews with computer scientists and engineers to identify the ethical challenges they face when working with algorithms. Kendall Darfler, Dalton George, and Jason Ludwig were research assistants on the project and used the data to develop the cases. The research team tested the case in multiple classrooms and revised the case based on instructor and student feedback. Bill Mongan served as a technical consultant on the project, reviewing the case studies for technical clarity. 


In your submission, please include answers to any questions asked on the assignment page in your README file. If you wrote code as part of this assignment, please describe your design, approach, and implementation in your README file as well. Finally, include answers to the following questions:
  • Describe what you did, how you did it, what challenges you encountered, and how you solved them.
  • Please answer any questions found throughout the narrative of this assignment.
  • If collaboration with a buddy was permitted, did you work with a buddy on this assignment? If so, who? If not, do you certify that this submission represents your own original work?
  • Please identify any and all portions of your submission that were not originally written by you (for example, code originally written by your buddy, or anything taken or adapted from a non-classroom resource). It is always OK to use your textbook and instructor notes; however, you are certifying that any portions not designated as coming from an outside person or source are your own original work.
  • Approximately how many hours it took you to finish this assignment (I will not judge you for this at all...I am simply using it to gauge if the assignments are too easy or hard)?
  • Your overall impression of the assignment. Did you love it, hate it, or were you neutral? One word answers are fine, but if you have any suggestions for the future let me know.
  • Any other concerns that you have. For instance, if you have a bug that you were unable to solve but you made progress, write that here. The more you articulate the problem the more partial credit you will receive (it is fine to leave this blank).

Please refer to the Style Guide for code quality examples and guidelines.