CSCE 390: Professional Issues in Computer Science and Engineering (Fall 2019)

Prerequisites: None

Meeting time and venue: Th 1800-1850 in SWGN 3C01 (Amoco Hall).

Instructor: Marco Valtorta
Office: INNOVA 2269, 777-4641
Office Hours: M 1500-1800, or by previous appointment.
Teaching Assistant:Fengyao Yan
Office: Storey 2210
Office Hours: M 1000-1200 and Th 1000-1200

Time Allocation Framework

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. CSCE 390 is an approved foundational course for the Carolina Core VSR (Values and Ethics) learning outcome.
    Learning Outcomes for this course are as follows. Students will be able to:


    These notes will be updated during the course of the semester.
    What Is Computer Ethics? A Review of Definitions, used on 2019-08-29.
    Philosophical Belief Systems, Part I: Idealism and Realism
    Presentation by Ms. Christine Mosich of the CEC Satellite Office of the USC Career Center.
    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.
    Presentation by Dr. Duncan Buell ce of UofSC, used on 2019-09-26.
    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 in 12-point font. Please include references as appropriate. I do not require a specific citation style, but please be consistent.

    1. (HW1) Answer all the questions at the end of chapters 1 and 2 of [B]. Due date: September 5, 2019.
    2. (HW2) due date October 17, 2019.
      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 (possibly, 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 STEM Majors Career Fair on Tuesday, September 24, 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 25; this should show that you could not reasonably attend the STEM Majors 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.
    3. (HW3) due date October 17. Do the exercises at the end of chapter 3 and 5 of [B]. A two-page paper (roughly half a page per question) is expected.
    4. (HW4) Do the exercise at the end of chapter 6 of [B]. Due date: October 31, 2019. I expect about one page.
    5. (HW5) Read Ch.7 [B]. Do the exercise at the end of chapter 7 of [B]. Due date: November 7, 2019. I expect about one page.
    6. (HW6) Read Chs.12 and 14 [B]. Choose one case from Ch.13 or Ch.15 [B]. Do the exercise at the end of the chapter for that case only. I expect between one and two pages. Submit your work to the departmental dropbox by Tuesday, November 12, 2019. Bring your analysis of the case to class on Thursday, November 14, 2019. Be prepared to present your analysis. Students will be asked to present their solutions or comment on the solution of other students during the November 14 class.
    7. (HW7) The ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct was updated in 2018, for the first time since it was written in 1992. The updated code was released on 17 July 2018 and is available at Do exercise 4 at the end of Chapter 9 using both the new code and the old code, and describe the difference. The four sections of the old version of the code have, respectively, 8, 8, 6, and 2 parts. The four sections of the new version have, respectively, 7, 9, 7, and 2 parts. Explain how the old and new parts differ; for example: are some of the parts substantially the same? Have some been merged? Due date: November 21, 2019. I expect about one page.
    8. (HW8) 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 from Ch.6 [B] to the problem, (3) you apply the ACM Code (either the original version in the textbook or the new (2018) version). 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 20, 2019. All students should be prepared to present on November 21, 2019. Some students will be asked to present in class on November 21; others on December 5, 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. Abstract for presentation by Prof. Duncan Buell on Voting Machines of 2018-10-25, and related report.
    2. Career-related links
    3. Career Center at CEC
    4. STEM Majors Career Fair Information
    5. Career Center at USC (main site)
    6. Resume-Writing Packet from the USC Career Canter
    7. ACM Career and Job Center
    8. ACM Computing Degrees and Careers Guide
    9. Women in Computing Group at USC
    10. James H. Moor. "What is Computer Ethics?" Metaphilosophy, 16, 4 (October 1985), 266-275 (local copy).
    11. 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.
    12. "Can we teach robots ethics?", an episode of the BBC radio show "The Inquiry" that aired on 2017-12-11 and 2017-12-12.
    13. "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).
    14. "Should students learn coding?" Results of a Gallup poll commissioned by Google, USA Today article, 2014-08-20.
    15. James H. Moor. "Just Consequentialism and Computing." Ethics and Information Technology 1: 65-69, 1999. (local copy).
    16. Society of Women Engineers at USC Website
    17. Geoffrey Sayre-McCord. "Kant's Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals: A Very Brief Selective Summary of Sections I and II" (local copy).
    18. Immanuel Kant. "Groundwork for the Metaphysic [sic] of Morals." (local copy).
    19. A paper by Shannon Bowen on an using Kant's Ethics to Manage Ethical Issues.
    20. An article by Shannon Bowen on the role of ethical paradigms in decision making.
    21. Jeremy Epstein. "Internet Voting: Will We Cast Our Next Votes Online?" Computing Reviews, 2016-09-27 (local copy, pdf).
    22. "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.
    23. "Without Test Tubes, 3 Win Nobel in Chemistry," an article by Kenneth Chang, New York Times, October 10, 2013 (local copy).
    24. "Internet Access is Not a Human Right," an article by Vinton G. Cerf, New York Times, January 4, 2012 (local copy).
    25. "What is Artificial Intelligence?" An article by Richard Powers, New York Times, February 5, 2011, about the IBM Jeopardy-playing Watson program (local copy)
    26. The PBS NOVA Show "Smartest Machine on Earth" describes the IBM Jeopardy-playing program Watson
    27. The IBM Watson web site (also can be reached this way).
    28. Some comments by Carnegie Mellon professor Eric Nyberg and graduate students Nico Schlaefer and Hideki Shima, who worked on the IBM Watson project.
    29. 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).
    30. Peter J. Denning. "The Computing Field: Structure." April 2008 (rev. 9/14/08). Typescript. Naval Postgraduate School. (local copy)
    31. 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).
    32. Andrew A. Chien. "Computing Is a Profession." Communications of the ACM, 60, 10 (Oct. 2017), p.5 (local copy).
    33. The ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (html)
    34. The Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice 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), accessed on 2018-10-04.
    35. 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).
    36. Links concerning professional codes of ethics
      1. The ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct
      2. The ACM/IEEE-CS Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice
      3. The Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics (from the site of Computer Professional for Social Responsibility)
      4. 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.
      5. Local copy of the above.
      6. 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).
      7. "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.)
    37. 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 .
    38. Links related to career planning
      1. Quintessential Careers (TM) article by Randall Hanssen
      2. Career Planning Guide for IEEE Members