CSCE 390: Professional Issues in Computer Science and Engineering (Fall 2017)

Prerequisites: None

Meeting time and venue: Th 1800-1850 in SWGN 3C01.

Instructor: Marco Valtorta
Office: Storey 2269, 777-4641
Office Hours: MF 1030-noon, or by previous appointment.
Teaching Assistant:Daniel Pade
Office: Storey 1205
Office Hours: MTW 11-12.


Grading Policy

Reference materials:

  • Robert N. Barger. Computer Ethics: A Case-based Approach. Cambridge University Press, 2008 (required text, referred to as [B]). Supplementary materials from the publisher are available online.
  • The departmental syllabus for CSCE 390 is here. (Note that the syllabus is incorrect: there are currently no course prerequisites for CSCE 390.) CSCE 390 is an approved foundational course for the Carolina Core VSR (Values and Ethics) learning outcome. Specific objectives of this course are:


    These notes will be updated during the course of the semester.
    What Is Computer Ethics? A Review of Definitions. Notes used on 2016-08-25.
    Philosophical Belief Systems, Part I: Idealism and Realism
    Presentation by Ms. Emma Waugh of the CEC Satellite Office of the USC Career Center, used on 2016-09-08.
    Presentation by Ms. Helen Powers of the CEC Satellite Office of the USC Career Center, used on 2015-09-10.
    Philosophical Belief Systems, Part II: Pragmatism and Existentialism
    Three Simple Ethical Cases: Absolutist and Relativist Positions
    The Ethical Decision-Making Process
    Legal and Ethical Issues in Computer Security, presentation by Dr. Csilla Farkas , used on 2015-11-17
    Psychology and Computer Ethics
    The Computing Field as a Profession
    Computer-Related Codes of Ethics
    Four Cases by Rogert Barger

    Here is a writing rubric written by Dr. Heidi Cooley in the Media Arts program. (Thanks to Prof. Buell for passing it on.) I am not bound by this rubric, but it may be useful for you to consider when writing your essays.
    Points per assignment.

    See the lecture log for possible additional assignments.
    Your homework must be typed. preferrably double-spaced in 12-point font. Please include references as appropriate. I do not require a specific citation style, but please be consistent.

    1. (HW1) Do the exercises at the end of chapters 1 and 2 of [B]. Due date: August 31, 2017.
    2. (HW2) due Thursday, October 19, 2017. Do the exercises at the end of chapter 3 and 5 of [B]. Due date: To be announced. A two-page paper (roughly half a page per question) is expected.
    3. (HW3) due Thursday, October 19, 2017
      Choose a company where you would like to apply for a position. Write:
      1. A one-page overview of the company
      2. A one-page overview of the position that you would apply for
      3. A one-page resume geared towards that position
      4. A half-page essay on what you need to learn or do to be competitive for the position
      5. Attend the SET Career Fair on Wednesday, September 27, and write a half-page essay describing your experience
      6. Complete your Handshake profike at the USC Career Center. Write a statement that you did this on the first page of your homework submission document.
        The whole submission consists of four pages.
      If you cannot attend the career fair because of a class conflict, you must:
      1. Do all parts of the assignment except for part (5)
      2. Attach a copy of your weekly class schedule for the week of September 26; this should show that you could not reasonably attend the SET Career Fair
      3. Do one of the following:
        1. Write a half-page essay describing your experience at another career fair
        2. Attend an activity sponsored by the career center, such as a resume-writing workshop, and write a half-page essay about it
        3. Attend an activity sponsored by a professional society in computing and write a half-page essay about it.
  • (HW4) Do the exercise at the end of chapter 6 of [B]. Due date: Thursday, October 26, 2017. I expect at least one page.
  • (HW5) Read Ch.7 [B]. Do the exercise at the end of chapter 7 of [B]. Due date: Thursday, November 9, 2017. I expect at least one page.
  • (HW6) Do exercises 1 and 4 at the end of chapter 9 of [B]. Due date: Thursday, November 16, 2017.
  • (HW7) Choose a topic of professional interest that includes a non-trivial ethical issue from ACM TechNews archives. Prepare a 6-slide PowerPoint presentation (in pptx format; a few more slides are acceptable) in which (1) you summarize the topic (appropriate references should be on the title slide; see below), (2) you apply the 8-step ethical decision-making process to the problem, (3) you apply the ACM Code or the ACM/IEEE-CS Code. You also need a title slide with your name, the title of your presentation, and reference(s), including at least the ACM TechWeek entry that you used. At least one example is provided in the "Student Presentations" section of this website. The PowerPoint presentation is due by 11:55pm on Wednesday, November 29, 2017. It must be submitted using blackboard. (Yes, blackboard) All students should be prepared to present on November 30, 2017. Some students will be asked to present in class on November 30; others on December 6, the last day of class for our course.

    Lecture Log

    Student Presentations

    The USC Blackboard has a site for this course.

    Some useful links:

    1. Career-related links
      1. Career Center at CEC
      2. SET Career Fair Information
      3. Career Center at USC (main site)
      4. Resume-Writing Packet from the USC Career Canter
      5. ACM Career and Job Center
      6. ACM CareerNews
      7. ACM Computing Degrees and Careers Guide
    2. Women in Computing Group at USC
    3. James H. Moor. "What is Computer Ethics?" Metaphilosophy, 16, 4 (October 1985), 266-275 (local copy).
    4. James, H. Moor. "Reason, Relativity, and Responsibility in Computer Ethics." In: Terrell Ward Bynum and Simon Rogerson (eds.). Computer Ethics and Professional Responsibility. ISBN 1-85554-844-5. Blackwell Publishing, 2004 (local copy). In addition to Moor's article, the paper also contains historical and introductory material on the topic of Computer Ethics.
    5. "Can we teach robots ethics?", an episode of the BBC radio show "The Inquiry" that aired on 2017-12-11 and 2017-12-12.
    6. "Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030". Report of the 2015 study panel. One hundred year study on Artificial Intelligence, Stanford University, September 2016, released on September 1, 2016 (local copy).
    7. "Should students learn coding?" Results of a Gallup poll commissioned by Google, USA Today article, 2014-08-20.
    8. James H. Moor. "Just Consequentialism and Computing." Ethics and Information Technology 1: 65-69, 1999. (local copy).
    9. Society of Women Engineers at USC Website
    10. Geoffrey Sayre-McCord. "Kant's Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals: A Very Brief Selective Summary of Sections I and II" (local copy).
    11. A paper by Shannon Bowen on an using Kant's Ethics to Manage Ethical Issues.
    12. An article by Shannon Bowen on the role of ethical paradigms in decision making.
    13. Jeremy Epstein. "Internet Voting: Will We Cast Our Next Votes Online?" Computing Reviews, 2016-09-27 (local copy, pdf).
    14. "The Pentagon's 'Terminator Conundrum': Robots that Could Kill on Their Own," an article by Matthew Rosenberg and John Markoff, New York Times, October 25, 2016.
    15. "Without Test Tubes, 3 Win Nobel in Chemistry," an article by Kenneth Chang, New York Times, October 10, 2013 (local copy).
    16. "Internet Access is Not a Human Right," an article by Vinton G. Cerf, New York Times, January 4, 2012 (local copy).
    17. "What is Artificial Intelligence?" An article by Richard Powers, New York Times, February 5, 2011, about the IBM Jeopardy-playing Watson program (local copy)
    18. The PBS NOVA Show "Smartest Machine on Earth" describes the IBM Jeopardy-playing program Watson
    19. The IBM Watson web site (also can be reached this way).
    20. Some comments by Carnegie Mellon professor Eric Nyberg and graduate students Nico Schlaefer and Hideki Shima, who worked on the IBM Watson project.
    21. Building Watson: An Overview of the DeepQA Project David Ferrucci, Eric Brown, Jennifer Chu-Carroll, James Fan, David Gondek, Aditya A. Kalyanpur, Adam Lally, J. William Murdock, Eric Nyberg, John Prager, Nico Schlaefer, Chris Welty. _AI Magazine, vol.31, no.3 (Fall 2010). (full text available only to AAAI members).
    22. Peter J. Denning. "The Computing Field: Structure." April 2008 (rev. 9/14/08). Typescript. Naval Postgraduate School. (local copy)
    23. M.T. Chi, R. Glaser, and E. Rees. "Expertise in Problem Solving." In: R.J. Sternberg (Ed.), Advances in the Psychology of Human Intelligence (vol. 1). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1982 (local copy).
    24. The ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (html)
    25. The Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice (Version 5.2) as recommended by the ACM/IEEE-CS Joint Task Force on Software Engineering Ethics and Professional Practices and jointly approved by the ACM and the IEEE-CS as the standard for teaching and practicing software engineering (html)
    26. Gotterbarn, D. and Miller, K. W. 2004. "Computer ethics in the undergraduate curriculum: case studies and the joint software engineer's code." J. Comput. Small Coll. 20, 2 (Dec. 2004), 156-167 (local copy, pdf).
    27. Links concerning professional codes of ethics
      1. The ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct
      2. The ACM Code of Ethics: Flyer with Abridged Version
      3. The Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice
      4. The Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics (from the site of Computer Professional for Social Responsibility)
      5. Gotterbarn, D. and Miller, K. W. 2004. Computer ethics in the undergraduate curriculum: case studies and the joint software engineer's code. J. Comput. Small Coll. 20, 2 (Dec. 2004), 156-167.
      6. Local copy of the above.
      7. Peter Aiken, Robert M. Stanley, Juanita Billings, and Luke Anderson. "Using Codes of Conduct to Resolve Legal Disputes." Computer, 43, 4 (April 2010), pp.29-34 (local copy, pdf).
      8. "Codes of Ethics in English" Online Ethics Center for Engineering 10/13/2009 National Academy of Engineering Accessed: Monday, April 12, 2010 (Note that the ACM/IEEE-CS Software Engineering and Professional Practice was not on this page when accessed.)
    28. Links related to current events
      1. New York Times article of 2011-02-16 about how Egypt was disconnected from the internet on January 28, 2011: local copy, original article (notice comments link)
      2. Bloomberg News article on Internet "Kill Switch" Authority: local copy , original article .
    29. Links related to career planning
      1. Quintessential Careers (TM) article by Randall Hanssen
      2. Career Planning Guide for IEEE Members