CSCE 390: Professional Issues in Computer Science and Engineering (Spring 2012)

Prerequisites: CSCE 240, SPCH 140

Meeting time and venue: Th 1530-1620 in Main B201

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.
  • The current departmental syllabus for CSCE 390 is here. Specific objectives of this course are:

    Ross-Barger Philosophy Inventory as used on 2012-01-12.

    Philosophical Belief Systems, Part I: Idealism and Realism
    Presentation by Ms. Helen Fields, director of the CEC Satellite Office of the USC Career Center, used on 2012-01-24.
    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
    The Computing Field as a Profession
    Computer-Related Codes of Ethics
    Legal and Ethical Issues in Computer Security, presentation by Dr. Csilla Farkas

    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 26, 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 1. Register on JobMate. Prepare or update your resume. Turn in a one-page report of your visit to the Career Fair, a statement that you registered on JobMate, and a copy of your resume on Thursday, February 2, 2012. Note: This satisfies the "Professional Activities" requirement described in the "Grading Policy" page.
    3. (HW3) Do the exercises at the end of chapter 3 of [B]. Due date: Thursday, February 9, 2012. A one-and-a-half page paper (roughly half a page per question) is expected.
    4. (HW4) Do the exercises at the end of chapters 6 and 7 of [B]. Due date: Thursday, March 1, 2012. Note date change! (It used to be March 8.) I expect at least one page per question.
    5. (HW5) Do exercises 1 and 4 at the end of chapter 9 of [B]. Due date: Thursday, March 22, 2012. (Note date change from March 15, 2012.)
    6. (HW6) 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 11:55pm on April 11. It must be submitted using the departmental dropbox. All students should be prepared for presentation on April 12. Some students will be asked to present in class on April 12; others on April 19, the last day of class.

    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. "Internet Access is Not a Human Right," an article by Vinton G. Cerf, New York Times, January 4, 2012 (local copy).
    3. "What is Artificial Intelligence?" An article by Richard Powers, New York Times, February 5, 2011, about the IBM Jeopardy-playing Watson program (local copy)
    4. The PBS NOVA Show "Smartest Machine on Earth" describes the IBM Jeopardy-playing program Watson
    5. The IBM Watson web site (also can be reached this way).
    6. Some comments by Carnegie Mellon professor Eric Nyberg and graduate students Nico Schlaefer and Hideki Shima, who worked on the IBM Watson project.
    7. 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).
    8. Peter J. Denning. "The Computing Field: Structure." April 2008 (rev. 9/14/08). Typescript. Naval Postgraduate School. (local copy)
    9. 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).
    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