CSCE 390: Professional Issues in Computer Science and Engineering (Spring 2011)

This site is under construction

Prerequisites: CSCE 240, SPCH 140

Meeting time and venue: Th 1530-1620 in SWGN 2A27

Instructor: Marco Valtorta
Office: Swearingen 3A55, 777-4641
Office Hours: MWF 11-noon, or by previous appointment.


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.
  • Here is the current departmental syllabus for CSCE 390. Note that the texbook listed on the departmental syllabus is not the one we are going to use. Specific objectives of this course are:


    Philosophical Belief Systems, Part I: Idealism and Realism
    Philosophical Belief Systems, Part II: Pragmatism and Existentialism
    Three Simple Ethical Cases: Absolutist and Relativist Positions
    The Ethical Decision-Making Process
    Psychology and Computer Ethics
    Some slides on the IBM Watson Jeopardy-playing system
    The Computing Field as a Profession
    Legal and Ethical Issues in Computer Security, presentation by Dr. Csilla Farkas
    Open Source Software, presentation by Mr. Ben Francis, president of the Columbia Linux User Group (

    Quizzes (In-Class Exercises)


    Points per assignment.

    See lecture log for a more complete list, which includes assignments for which no handout was given.

    1. (HW1) Do the exercises at the end of chapters 1 and 2 of [B]. Due date: Thursday, January 20, 2011.
      • Your homework essay must be typed, double-spaced, in 12-point font. The essay, in total, must be no longer than two pages. Please type the questions as well as your answers.
      • Please turn in hard copy, but save the source file, because you may be asked to submit an electronic version later.
      • For question 1 on p.15, provide only one occurrence and why you think it should have been included.
      • For question 2 on p.15, provide only one example of each of the two kinds and explain why they meet the conditions of the question.
      • For question 3 on p.15, provide only one kind of problem and explain why the computer has raised a unique dilemma.
    2. (HW2) Attend the SET career fair on Wednesday, February 3, and write a one-page report. Due Thursday, February 4, 2011. Note: This satisfies the "Professional Activities" requirement described in the "Grading Policy" page.
    3. (HW3) Do the exercises at the end of chapters 3, 4, and 5 of [B]. Due date: Thursday, February 10, 2011. Use the same format as for the first assignment.
    4. (HW4) Do the exercises at the end of chapter 6 and 7 of [B]. Due date: Thursday, February 24, 2011. Use the same format as for the first assignment.
    5. (HW5) Do exercises 1 and 4 at the end of chapter 9 of [B]. Due date: Thursday, March 24, 2011.
    6. (HW6) Write a short career plan, following these guidelines. Submit both in hard copy and using the departmental dropbox (
    7. (HW7) Choose a topic of professional interest that includes a non-trivial ethical issue from ACM TechNews archives. Prepare a 5-slide PowerPoint presentation in which (1) you summarize the topic (with appropriate references), (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. The PowerPoint presentation is due by 2355 (11:55pm) on Tuesday, April 19. It must be submitted using the departmental dropbox. Some students will be asked to present in class on April 21; I expect to contact them by email on Wednesday, April 20.

    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. Career Center at USC (main site)
      3. ACM Career and Job Center
      4. ACM CareerNews
      5. ACM Computing Degrees and Careers Guide
    2. As Dr. Huhns wrote: POSSCON "is being held March 23-25 in the [Columbia Metropolitan] Convention Center. The first 150 students to register get in for free and will receive free lunches. There will also be drawings for cool high-tech door prizes that they might win. More importantly, there will be excellent technical presentations (see the attached description) and a good way for them to meet local and national leaders who can provide professional employment opportunities." Here is how to get free registration: type 'student' in the discount code box and it will knock the cost to 0.
    3. The Gamecock Toastmasters Club web site. The club mission is to help students and other members of the USC community develop communication skills.
    4. "What is Artificial Intelligence?" An article by Richard Powers, New York Times, February 5, 2011, about the IBM Jeopardy-playing Watson program (local copy)
    5. The PBS NOVA Show "Smartest Machine on Earth" describes the IBM Jeopardy-playing program Watson
    6. The IBM Watson web site (also can be reached this way).
    7. Some comments by Carnegie Mellon professor Eric Nyberg and graduate students Nico Schlaefer and Hideki Shima, who worked on the IBM Watson project.
    8. 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).
    9. Peter J. Denning. "The Computing Field: Structure." April 2008 (rev. 9/14/08). Typescript. Naval Postgraduate School. (local copy)
    10. The League of Technical Voters Website, recommended by Professor Duncan Buell
    11. The ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (html)
    12. 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)
    13. 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).
    14. 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.)
    15. 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 .
    16. Links related to carreer planning
      1. Quintessential Careers (TM) article by Randall Hanssen
      2. Career Planning Guide for IEEE Members
    17. Norman Matloff's Introduction to the vi Text editor
    18. Norman Matloff's Unix Tutorial Center