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Ethics for Nerds

Size of course and registration

The course will be limited to 60 participants. However, we let register up to 75 students for creating a pool of possible successors. 

Our succession procedure goes like this (note: you cannot see you registration number):

  • If you are one of the first 60 registered students AND you don't miss (without excuse note and good reason) any of the first two lectures (we'll check), then you're on board for sure;
  • OR: You have registration number 60+C (C>0, C is a natural number...), but you've been present at the first two lectures AND at least C students with a registration number equal or below 60 failed to meet the first condition;
  • OR: If we have less than 60 fixed participants after applying both cases AND you are registered AND [have been present at least in one of the first two lectures OR send me a message that you really would love to participate].

Whoever has registered has a place. Spread the word!


The impact of computer science and related fields on our society and everyday life has increased tremendously over the last decade. There is no evidence for an ending of this process in the close future. Therefore, computer scientists should be aware of the societal impact of the artefacts they build and the systems they contribute to and ought to have the necessary competences for making morally acceptable and professional decisions. However, the thoughts and insights of academic ethics - i.e. the thoughts and insights of the field professionally concerned with what computer scientists need to know about ethics - are usually not part of their studies and education.

This course aims at bridging this gap. It will let you get in touch with both, relevant knowledge from the field of academic moral philosophy and the soft skills needed to argue clearly, precisely, and convincingly (i.e. beyond the level of everyday discussions at bars and parties) when it comes to moral problems. Problems most likely waiting for you right at the start of or later in your career -  be it in research, be in industry. And by the way: Philosophy is fun.

In more detail, this course offers a broad introduction into the field of computer ethics: First, you will get to know methods of philosophy and basics of normative and applied ethics. It covers information ethics (the branch of ethics concerned with the creation, organization, spreading and use of information), introduces basic concepts like anonymity and privacy and asks what is bad about breaking them from a moral point of view; it will ask questions from ethics of technology, trying to evaluate practices and technologies already in use or not that far away (GPS-tracking, CCTV, fitness trackers, big data analytics, lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS)); it will guide you through the jungle of moral codices of professional associations, enabling and encouraging you to distinguish convincing and coherent codices from bad and incoherent ones; and it will give an outlook on more futuristic fields like machine ethics (longing for implementing and ensuring ethical behavior into software and robots, e.g. autonomous vehicles) and roboethics (concerned with the morally adequate behavior of humans toward technical systems).


This lecture is made possible by support from the Excellence Cluster MMCI and the Saarbrücken Graduate School of Computer Science. It takes place annually in the summer term.

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