Ethics for Nerds Kevin Baum, Sarah Sterz, Holger Hermanns

News

19.05.2022

Tonight's Talk

We wanted to remind you that tonight is the talk by Moritz Hardt (at 6:15 pm in the Günter Hotz Lecture Hall, E2 2) that we invite you to attend. His research is both interesting and very relevant to Ethics for Nerds. Also, this talk will be relevant for the exam,... Read more

We wanted to remind you that tonight is the talk by Moritz Hardt (at 6:15 pm in the Günter Hotz Lecture Hall, E2 2) that we invite you to attend. His research is both interesting and very relevant to Ethics for Nerds. Also, this talk will be relevant for the exam, so we recommend to attend it, preferably in person such that you can ask Moritz Hardt questions. Even though the talk is also recorded, a recoding will (obviously) not give you this opportunity. If you cannot attend in person, you can also watch a live stream here.

We hope to see many of you tonight! :)

Best wishes,
Your Ethics-for-Nerds team

09.05.2022

Important Assignment Update (+ Livestreams)

1. Someone pointed out that one piece of information was missing in the case description in the assignment. Thanks for letting us know! We uploaded a new version that contains the additional sentence “Juan knows all of the above and is justified in his... Read more

1. Someone pointed out that one piece of information was missing in the case description in the assignment. Thanks for letting us know! We uploaded a new version that contains the additional sentence “Juan knows all of the above and is justified in his expectations.” Please take that into account!

If you already completed the assignment, you will not have to redo it, though. Just email your solutions to Ursela to let us know such that we can correct your assignment properly.

 

2. Also, we wanted to let you know that the lectures will not only be recorded and uploaded but will also usually be streamed live in MS Teams. Unfortunately, online interaction during the lecture is limited as we often will not be able to keep an eye on the chat while giving a lecture. There are still plenty of office hours you can come to, though, if you have any questions!

 

Best wishes,
The Ethics-for-Nerds team

23.04.2022

Group Finding is Over

The grouping phase is over now. Thanks for entering your groups in the dcms! :)

If you have a group but missed the deadline for entering it, you still have time to do that until Monday evening.

If you have not found a group yet but still need one, you can... Read more

The grouping phase is over now. Thanks for entering your groups in the dcms! :)

If you have a group but missed the deadline for entering it, you still have time to do that until Monday evening.

If you have not found a group yet but still need one, you can write an email to Ursela until Monday evening. We will then try to find a group for you. Remember: you need a group to get the exam admission.

Best wishes
Your Ethics-for-Nerds Team

14.04.2022

First Lecture and Todos

The lecture materials for this week are online now. There are three important things you need to do now:

1. Watch the lecture if you were not present. You can find it on the Materials page. (If you want to, you can skip the part where the poll starts. Instead,... Read more

The lecture materials for this week are online now. There are three important things you need to do now:

1. Watch the lecture if you were not present. You can find it on the Materials page. (If you want to, you can skip the part where the poll starts. Instead, just look at the slides and make up your own mind on the questions posed there.)

2. Form a team if you have not already done so and enter this team in the dcms. If you want more information on this, check the Course Information page. Utilize the forum for finding team members. The deadline for group completion is April 22. Remember: you need a discussion group if you want to get the exam admission! If you have trouble finding a team, write us an email.

3. Prepare for the Hands-On Session next week by watching the videos that are linked on the Materials page.

If you have any questions or encounter any problems, please get in touch! Also, make sure to check out the page on Course Information.

Best wishes,
Your Ethics for Nerds team

 

 

Ethics for Nerds

We will have a hybrid lecture this year.
Time: Thursday, 8:30 to 10:00 
Place: Günter-Hotz-Hörsaal (E2 2)
The whole course can be taken online, as we will upload recordings of the lecture in a timely manner. 
(The lecture will not be streamed, though.)

Many computer scientists will be confronted with morally difficult situations at some point in their career – be it in research, in business, or in industry. Ethics for Nerds equips you with the crucial assets enabling you to recognize such situations, and to devise ways to arrive at a justified moral judgment regarding the question of what you are permitted to do and what you should better not do. For that, you will be made familiar with moral theories from philosophy, as well as different Codes of Ethics for computer scientists. Since one can quickly get lost when talking about ethics and morals, it is especially important to talk and argue clearly and precisely. In order to prepare you for that, Ethics for Nerds trains your formal and informal argumentation skills enabling you to argue beyond the level of everyday discussions at bars and parties. In the end, you will be able to assess a morally controversial topic from computer science on your own and give a convincing argument for your assessment.

Ethics for Nerds is intended to always be as clear, precise, and analytic as possible. What you won't find here is the meaningless bla-bla, needlessly poetic language, and vague and wordy profundity that some people tend to associate with philosophy. You will, however, get many interesting insights into philosophy, ethics, and computer science – or so we have been told.

This course is a Vertiefungsvorlesung and worth 6 ECTS-points. All bachelor and master students are welcome!

 

 

Contents

This course covers:

  • an introduction to the methods of philosophy, argumentation theory, and the basics of normative as well as applied ethics;
  • relevant moral codices issued by professional associations like the ACM, the IEEE, and more;
  • starting points to evaluate practices and technologies already in use or not that far away, including for instance: filter bubbles and 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 and so on;
  • an outlook on more futuristic topics like machine ethics, roboethics, and superintelligences;
  • and more.

Presuppositions

We expect basic knowledge of propositional and first-order logic, an open mind, and interest to look at computer science in ways you probably are not used to.

The lecture and all its materials are in English, but if you feel more comfortable to write assignments and exams in German, you are invited to do so. For this course you should at least have a level of either German or English that is equivalent to a C1 level (see here for further details). We do not need any formal proof that you fulfil the requirements, but we 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.

Organization

Ethics for Nerds will take place in a hybrid format. You are encouraged to come to the in-person lectures, but you can also choose to watch recordings of these lectures at home. There are no fixed tutorials but there are plenty of office hours to get in touch with us, you will have to do some group work, and we will have special Hands-on Sessions instead of lectures from time to time.

In order to get the exam admission, you will have to pass two assignments, write a term paper and discuss with your team mates and a tutor. The grade is determined by an exam (or a re-exam -- the better mark counts) and you can get a bonus for an especially good term paper.

More detailed information is given in the first lecture.

Literature (not mandatory)

Upon request, we added 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. Many (though not all) of the articles there are high-quality. 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 usually very expensive, but you will find the book in the SULB and in the philosophy library. The German translation is equally good as the English original.


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