Ethics for Nerds Kevin Baum, Holger Hermanns, Sarah Sterz

News

31.01.2020

Hochschulperle and Evaluation

Dear Ethics for Nerds students,

We recently got two reasons to be very happy: First, we got awarded the Hochschulperle 2019. Thanks for your support in the SMS voting!

Secondly, and even more importantly, the results from your evaluation came back, and we are... Read more

Dear Ethics for Nerds students,

We recently got two reasons to be very happy: First, we got awarded the Hochschulperle 2019. Thanks for your support in the SMS voting!

Secondly, and even more importantly, the results from your evaluation came back, and we are very happy with how it turned out! We are very glad as it seems that you really liked the course. If you want to have a look at the results yourself, you can do so in the materials.

Thank you for a great iteration of Ethics for Nerds!
The Ethics for Nerds team

13.11.2019

Re-exam Results, Final Grade, and Exam Inspection

The results from the re-exam are online now and you can see your final grade at the very bottom of your personal page in the dCMS.

The exam inspection will take place next Wednesday, November 20th, from 8:30 to 9:30. If this collides with a lecture or tutorial of... Read more

The results from the re-exam are online now and you can see your final grade at the very bottom of your personal page in the dCMS.

The exam inspection will take place next Wednesday, November 20th, from 8:30 to 9:30. If this collides with a lecture or tutorial of yours, please get in touch with me before Wednesday. The room for the inspection will be announced in due time. The inspection will take place in E1.3, room 528.

Already I want to say: Thank you all for this great iteration of Ethics for Nerds! 😊

08.11.2019

Lost and Found

Someone forgot their bag in the exam room. You can pick it up at my office (E1.3, room 511.2).

25.10.2019

Clarification: Feedback for Essays

Today it turned out that many did not realize that detailed feedback has been published in the dcms along with the results of the essays. So, if you did not already do so, take a look at your essay feedback, which you can download on your personal page.

23.10.2019

Essay Results

The results for your essays are now published.

Have a nice evening!

18.10.2019

Exam Inspection and Reminder: Essay

The exam inspection will take place on Friday, October 25th, 9:00 to 11:00. It will be for both, inspecting your exam and asking questions about the correction of your essay. The room will be announced in due time. The inspection will take place in E1.3, room... Read more

The exam inspection will take place on Friday, October 25th, 9:00 to 11:00. It will be for both, inspecting your exam and asking questions about the correction of your essay. The room will be announced in due time. The inspection will take place in E1.3, room 528.

Speaking of your essay, this is also a friendly reminder that the essays are due today at 23:59.

17.10.2019

Exam Results

You can now see the results from the main exam on your personal page in the dcms.

A date for the exam inspection will be announced in due time.

 

08.10.2019

Reminder: Exam

Our main exam will take place today in HS I in E2 5, from 14.00 to 16.00. We will take the full 120 minutes, so please be there at least five minutes early. You are allowed to take one handwritten DIN-A4 sheet (both sides) with you. No other resources are allowed.... Read more

Our main exam will take place today in HS I in E2 5, from 14.00 to 16.00. We will take the full 120 minutes, so please be there at least five minutes early. You are allowed to take one handwritten DIN-A4 sheet (both sides) with you. No other resources are allowed. Please also make sure to bring you student ID card.

04.10.2019

Scanlon Solutions

Upon your requests, we uploaded another set of solutions that shows you how to solve an exercise that asks you for an application of our simplified form of Scanlon's contractualism. You can find it under S06-E2 Deontology.

A few additional remarks on... Read more

Upon your requests, we uploaded another set of solutions that shows you how to solve an exercise that asks you for an application of our simplified form of Scanlon's contractualism. You can find it under S06-E2 Deontology.

A few additional remarks on Scanlon:

Firstly, as I said during the practices, we do not expect you to be able to apply Scanlon’s contracutalism in a way that Scanlon himself would. What you were presented with in the lecture is a simplified version of Scanlon that leaves some room for interpretation. What we want you to do is to apply the theory reasonably and sensibly fill in the gaps if you come across a case where the theory from the lecture leaves open some details. So, what you are to do is not to apply the theory in every detail as it is presented in What We Owe To Each Other, but you are to show that you can reasonably apply and extrapolate the theory that was given to you. (This, however, does not mean that you should deviate from the given theory, but you only should fill in gaps.)

Secondly, a way that often works for showing that ϕing is wrong for an agent is by proof of contradiction:

  1. Assume that there is a set of principles that nobody can reasonably reject that allows ϕing.
  2. Single out the person P on whom the set places the greatest burden, i.e. the person that is most negatively affected by the agent’s ϕing.
  3. Show that there is nobody else who has a greater burden than P if P rejects the set, i.e. that nobody is more negatively affected if the agent does not ϕ.
  4. You showed that P can reasonably reject all principles that allow the agent to ϕ and you therefore can conclude that ϕing is wrong for the agent.

And, thirdly: The theory is about whether someone can reasonably reject a set of principles. This is not the same as whether

  • someone does reasonably reject a set of principles,
  • someone can reject a set of principles, or
  • someone can reasonably reject a principle.

Have a good exam preparation and do not despair over Scanlon's contractualism! :)

 

PS: As said during the lecture, the forum is unmoderated. It is only meant as an easy way to communicate with your fellow students, but no team members are present there. If you have any questions, please write me an email. (If you want to share my answer with your fellow students, please feel free to post it in the forum!)

30.09.2019

Exam Admission and Exam Registration

The last quizzes are now corrected, and you should be able to see whether you are admitted. You will be admitted to the exam with 92 points or more.

Please make sure to register in the LSF today, as the registration closes one week before the exam.

25.09.2019

Reminder: Our Last Day (Already?!)

Tomorrow, we will have a regular lecture in the morning, followed by a mock exam. In the afternoon, we will have a rather short wrap-up lecture followed by a Q&A. So, be prepared to ask questions during the Q&A. I will stay as long as you still have questions, but... Read more

Tomorrow, we will have a regular lecture in the morning, followed by a mock exam. In the afternoon, we will have a rather short wrap-up lecture followed by a Q&A. So, be prepared to ask questions during the Q&A. I will stay as long as you still have questions, but there will be no practice afterwards. If you have questions specific to you, e.g. concerning your essay, then stay until after the Q&A and ask me or Nikolai in a one-to-one conversation. The Q&A will not be recorded, as it would unnecessarily slow down the process if I had to repeat every question for the recording (which I always forget to do anyways – sorry for that!). The short lecture before that, however, will be recorded.

Yet again, there won’t be any busses tomorrow. In order to compensate for that, you can send in questions until 13:45 that I will answer while still recording, if the amount of questions I receive will be manageable.

Also, we have our course evaluation tomorrow, so it would be great if plenty of you showed up such that we can get plenty of feedback.

24.09.2019

Reminder: Guest Lecture and Bus Strike

We are going to have the guest lecture by Dr. Anthony Milligan from Kings College, London, about the ethics of space exploration.
It will take place tomorrow at 2:00pm sharp in the Günter Hotz lecture hall (building E2 2), and we will join the people from the Space... Read more

We are going to have the guest lecture by Dr. Anthony Milligan from Kings College, London, about the ethics of space exploration.
It will take place tomorrow at 2:00pm sharp in the Günter Hotz lecture hall (building E2 2), and we will join the people from the Space Informatics lecture.
This guest lecture is relevant for the exam and will most likely not be recorded.

Please note that, unfortunately, the strike of our local bus drivers presumably continues tomorrow. Be prepared that there might be no bus service at all. If you cannot make it to our regular lecture at 9:00, that's fine. We will exclude tomorrow's Superintelligence lecture from the exam relevant topics. But please make sure that you come to the guest lecture if this is in any way possible for you.

I hope to see many of you tomorrow!

23.09.2019

Reminder: No Classes Tomorrow

As though we had known that there will be no bus service, there won't be lectures or practices tomorrow. You can use the additional time to, e.g., take a look at your essay. On Wednesday morning, we will continue as usual.

Have a nice Tuesday! :)

22.09.2019

Scedule for Week 3

The schedule of the upcoming week differs from the weeks before. Please note the following important dates:

First and foremost, we are going to have a guest lecture by Dr Anthony Milligan from Kings College, London, about the ethics of space exploration. It will... Read more

The schedule of the upcoming week differs from the weeks before. Please note the following important dates:

First and foremost, we are going to have a guest lecture by Dr Anthony Milligan from Kings College, London, about the ethics of space exploration. It will take place on Wednesday, 25th September at 2pm, and we will join the people from the Space Informatics lecture. This guest lecture is relevant for the exam, but there will be neither a recording of the lecture, nor will there be lecture slides. So you will need to be present and take notes in order to know what Anthony Milligan is talking about and to prepare for the exam.

Besides this, we have some other changes:

  1. There will be no lectures or practices on Tuesday in order to give you some time to work on your essay before the contact hours of the course come to an end.
  2. Instead of a regular practice, we will have an essay Q&A during the first practice slot on Wednesday, where you can ask questions that you came across on Tuesday.
  3. Instead of a regular practice, we will have a mock exam on Thursday morning.

 

18.09.2019

Room Change and Nerd Night

We will have another Nerd Night tomorrow. You can drop by, chat and discuss with your fellow students, ask questions of any kind and maybe have some pizza, too. This Nerd Night is dedicated towards your essays: feel free to pick your topic, and start crafting your... Read more

We will have another Nerd Night tomorrow. You can drop by, chat and discuss with your fellow students, ask questions of any kind and maybe have some pizza, too. This Nerd Night is dedicated towards your essays: feel free to pick your topic, and start crafting your arguments and drafts. In a group, a blank page is a lot less scary and you have plenty of help if you get stuck.
The Nerd Night will take place on Thursday, 19.08., 7pm in room 407 in E1.1.

Also note that the afternoon practice on Thursday, 19.08. will not take place in 407, but in our usual lecture hall in E1.3.

17.09.2019

We are in Deutschlandfunk!

As you may have noticed, we had a visitor from the Deutschlandfunk a couple of days ago, when she interviewed a few of you.

You can hear the result here (in German):
... Read more

As you may have noticed, we had a visitor from the Deutschlandfunk a couple of days ago, when she interviewed a few of you.

You can hear the result here (in German):
https://www.deutschlandfunk.de/informatik-studium-was-it-nerds-von-philosophen-lernen.680.de.html?dram:article_id=459040

Thanks for being so open and talking to the reporter. You did very well!
 

17.09.2019

Today's Videos

The videos from today will be uploaded with a small delay (most likely they will be uploaded tomorrow) as we watched several small videos during the lectursed which have to be manually edited into the recoding. This unfortunately will take some time.

Thanks for... Read more

The videos from today will be uploaded with a small delay (most likely they will be uploaded tomorrow) as we watched several small videos during the lectursed which have to be manually edited into the recoding. This unfortunately will take some time.

Thanks for your patience!
 

12.09.2019

Nerd Night

This is just a quick reminder that there is going to be a Nerd Night tonight starting at 7:00 pm in E1.1, room 407.
To clear up the confusion around the purpose of the Nerd Night: we just sit together, discuss (philosophy or any other topic), and if you want to,... Read more

This is just a quick reminder that there is going to be a Nerd Night tonight starting at 7:00 pm in E1.1, room 407.
To clear up the confusion around the purpose of the Nerd Night: we just sit together, discuss (philosophy or any other topic), and if you want to, you can get some work done and finish your assignments and quizzes, or ask general questions.

Everybody who attended the lecture knows the pizza secret that resolves around the Nerd Night.

12.09.2019

Room change

The default room for our practices will from now on be room 407 in E1.1, as the Mathematik-Vorkurs was so kind to give us their room. Thanks to the Vorkurs-people!

11.09.2019

Today's practice

The practice today will take place in E1.1, room 407, as the Mathematik-Vorkurs graciously gave us their room for today.

10.09.2019

Lost Keys

Someone lost their keys in the lecture hall. You can come and pick them up at the afternoon lecture or during the lunch break in Sarah's office in E1.3, room 511.2.

06.09.2019

Welcome to Ethics for Nerds!

Dear participants,

Welcome to Ethics for Nerds! This is a friendly reminder that you are enrolled in the course and that it will start on Monday.

If you are enrolled by mistake or changed your mind about taking the course, you can deregister here. If you are... Read more

Dear participants,

Welcome to Ethics for Nerds! This is a friendly reminder that you are enrolled in the course and that it will start on Monday.

If you are enrolled by mistake or changed your mind about taking the course, you can deregister here. If you are still reading and have not deregistered yet, I assume that you still want to take the course, about which we are more than happy.

We will start on Monday, September 9th. Usually, we will start at 9 s.t. (that means 9:00 am sharp). On the first day, however, we will start at 9:15 in order to compensate for s.t./c.t.-confusions. The full timetable is available here. We know that this schedule is rather packed and tight. In order to make up for this, all lectures will be recorded and made available for download every day such that you can watch them at your leisure. (Nevertheless, I very much encourage you to show up for as many contact hours as you can and actively participate as much as possible!)

We are very much looking forward to meeting all of you.

See you on Monday!
Sarah & the team

Show all
 

Ethics for Nerds


Please note that this year's edition of Ethics for Nerds will take place as a block course. The contact hours (i.e. lectures, tutorials etc) will be between 9th September and 27th September. You can find a more detailed schedule in the timetable. The main exam as well as the deadline for your essays will be in October. The re-exam will likely be scheduled in November. Thus, the course will formally belong to the next winter semester. (If you have any questions about the schedule, e.g. because you are an Erasmus student and need to leave before the re-exam, do not hestitate to get in touch with us.)


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 that this process will end anytime soon. We thus believe that computer scientists should be aware of the societal and morally relevant impact of the artifacts they build and of the systems they contribute to. This awareness can be trained and sharpened. Furthermore, computer scientists ought to have the necessary competences for making morally acceptable and professional decisions in the development processes they are participating in. However, the thoughts and insights of academic ethics – i.e. the field professionally concerned with ethics and morals – are a necessary precondition for these competences, but usually not part of computer scientists' studies and education.

This course aims at bridging this gap. It will introduce both, relevant knowledge from the field of academic moral philosophy and soft skills needed to argue clearly, precisely, and convincingly (i.e. beyond the level of everyday discussions at bars and parties). We will teach you how to apply these skills to problems most likely just lurking around the corner in your career – be it in research, be in industry. After all, we will explain and train these skills by discussing several current issues live and in color – from filter bubbles over predictive ML-algorithms to autonomous cars. 

But be aware: Philosophy is fun and can be highly addictive.

Contents

This course covers: 

  • an introduction to the methods of philosophy, argumentation theory, and the basics of normative as well as applied ethics;
  • starting points to evaluate practices and technologies already in use or not that far away, like for instance: Filter Bubble Effects/Echo Chambers, ML-algorithms as predictive tools, GPS-tracking, CCTV and other tools from surveillance, fitness trackers, big data analysis, autonomous vehicles, lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) and so on;
  • a guide through the jungle of moral codices of professional associations, enabling and encouraging you to distinguish convincing and coherent codices from bad and incoherent ones;
  • 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),
  • and more.

Information on assessment and grading can be found here.

Presuppositions

Even though this is an Advanced Course, we expect hardly any previous knowledge except for basic knowledge about propositional and first-order logic. What nevertheless is a vital precondition, is an open mind and an interest to look at computer science in a way you are not used to.
The lecture and all its materials obviously are in English, but if you feel more comfortable to write assignments and exams in German, you are invited to do so. Nevertheless, for this course you should have a level of either German or English that is equivalent to a strong B2 or better a C1 level (see here for further details). We do not need any formal proof that you fulfil the requirements, but we strongly recommend taking them seriously. If you are in any doubt whether this course is suitable for you, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

Literature

Upon request, you will find some literature that may be interesting to read before the course. Reading this, however, is not mandatory! We will cover everything that you will need to know during the course (except for the presuppositions above). You will not have a disadvantage if you do not read any of the literature that follows:

  1. Moor, J. H. (1985). What is computer ethics?. Metaphilosophy, 16(4), 266-275.
    A rather old paper that is nevertheless still very relevant today. Available here.
  2. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
    This is the wikipedia of philosophy with lots of high-quality articles. Among others, the following articles are relevant for Ethics for Nerds and are relatively easy to understand without a philosophical background:
  3. Another resourse of material can be the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, in particular the following articles:
  4. Rosenberg, J. F. (1984). The practice of philosophy: A handbook for beginners.
    If you are very much into philosophy, you can also dive a little deeper into the daily business of philosophers by having a look at this all-time-classic introduction to being a philosopher. Sadly, the English edition of this book is very expensive, but you will find the book in the SULB and in the philosophy library.
     

Earlier editions of this lecture series have been made possible by support from the Excellence Cluster MMCI and the Saarbrücken Graduate School of Computer Science. The lecture takes place annually in the summer term.



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