Computer Science 403
Gordon College, Fall 2016

Irvin J. Levy
Professor of Chemistry and Computer Science
Office Hours:
MWF, 12:30 - 1:30 PM
T, 3:30 - 4:30 PM
or by appointment
Men have become the tools of their tools.
- H. D. Thoreau, 1854


If Oscar Wilde were to have penned an introduction for a course such as this, he might have included a witty sentence such as, "The only thing worse than a society filled with computers is a society lacking them." In many ways this is the theme of the course. Computer technology has expanded the ability of humans in a revolutionary way in the past half century. At the same time, computer technology threatens to diminish our quality of life as computers fail to be reliable, as computers are intentionally misused, as computers are accidentally misused and as computers catalyze subtle changes in the ways we interact with one another.

The computer science curriculum of Gordon College challenges students to wrestle with important issues related to the societal impact of computing. Indeed, these topics are a key component from the very earliest courses through the end of our curriculum.

In this course we will read about, discuss and act upon numerous current topics from computer ethics and social impact. We will also think very futuristically as we project ourselves into the computer impact issues of tomorrow. It is an intention of this course that each of us should become familiar with the meaning of the term "computer ethics" as it is used in both philosophical discourse and in practical scenarios. We will become more aware of the possible negative impacts that computer technology might bring to individuals. We will also, importantly, move in a direction toward actually doing something about those issues both now, as students, and later as professionals and consumers.

Required Texts

Course Structure

The class will normally be conducted in a seminar/discussion format. Attendance at all classes is required and students are expected to be prepared and actively involved in the discussion. This class is NOT a lecture class. It is a discussion group. You will be far more actively involved than in a normal lecture class. Because our class is larger than ideal for a discussion group, you will be divided into small groups that will change daily. Each member of the group is expected to be actively involved in the small group discussion. Each class meeting different individuals will be tasked to report back to the class about the conversations of their group.

Peer leadership is essential in this course. Students will be asked to lead class discussion on occasion during the semester. It is expected that discussion leaders will come prepared to elicit feedback and to promote discussion of the day's topic.

Many readings will be required for this course. Many days there will also be a list of supplemental readings. The supplemental readings provide options for you to explore areas that are particularly interesting to you. In order to ensure that students complete the reading assignments, a brief quiz will be administered at the beginning of each class period. There is no make-up quiz provision, thus it is important to arrive for class on time.

The topic of Computers and Society is a constantly morphing concept. During this semester it is possible that a new engaging topic will emerge that we will chose to discuss rather than the ones listed in the syllabus. EXPECT the syllabus to change as the course progresses. DO NOT undertake assignments that are more than one week in the future without checking with the professor. The assignment might be very different once we finally get to discussing the topic.

Book Review

In addition to many required and optional reading selections that will be assigned, each student will read a book (or books), after consultation with and approval from the professor, in an area of his or her own interest, related to our course. After reading the book the student will prepare a book review (of roughly two to three pages) that carefully describes the overall concept of the book, the political or philosophical bias of the author, the intended audience, the content of the book (on a chapter to chapter basis), and a personal opinion regarding the value of the book for others in our course. Additionally, the reviewer should clearly note any controversial opinions that the author might raise and note her or his own Christian perspective on the controversy. For more information see this link.

The book reviews will be submitted as a review on, then the screen shot of the review will be submitted to the professor in hard copy. Each student will give a brief (approximately 5 minute) presentation to the class after the review is completed. The book review presentation will be self-evaluated, peer-evaluated, and evaluated by the professor.

A relevant book list will be provided by the professor; however, other options will be considered.

Off-Campus Experiences

During the semester, as appropriate, off-campus activities will be arranged. For example we might visit the MIT Museum, attend a relevant lecture at Harvard or MIT, or go as a class to see a film screening. If an off-campus visit is scheduled, it is considered a mandatory class event unless specifically stated otherwise. Missing an off-campus event without permission is treated as an unexcused absence.

One off-campus visit that is already planned is the screening of the film Snowden on the second weekend that it is in local theaters. You will be responsible for paying for your ticket to see the film. We will work to arrange rides for the students in the class.

Social Impact Project

It is a premise of this assignment that knowledge should lead to action. Accordingly, students in this course will be expected to devote a significant amount of time to a project that will either be of direct social benefit to its target audience or that will expose others to some of the concepts that we discuss.

Teams each consisting of about four students will be formed early in the course. These teams will be required to submit a proposal for a social impact/computer ethics project that will benefit the class, the department, the campus or the larger community. Numerous examples are provided; however, these are meant to be illustrative and not exhaustive.

Since the project will require a substantial amount of time, each student should select a project that she or he find personally interesting. The suggestions below are illustrative of the types of project that are desired; however, students may suggest alternatives as long as they are consistent with the goals of the course and are approved by the instructor in advance. Each project will terminate with a class presentation (15 minutes) as well as submission of all supporting documentation in a three-ringed binder.


Grading Criteria

This class has no formal examinations, thus, grading will be much more subjective than in other classes in the computer science curriculum. Many written assignments will be evaluated both by a peer and by the professor. Class presentations will also be evaluated by peers (the entire class) and by the professor. The social impact project will be subject to self-evaluation, peer-evaluation (entire class) and evaluation by the professor. In all evaluations, the professor reserves the right to disregard peer-evaluation or self-evaluation if it is deemed necessary.

Students who discover relevant web resources that relate to our course should send the links and a brief description to the professor. The professor may choose to add those links into the course syllabus. In such a case whuffie points will be distributed to the student. Note that whuffie points only affect your self-esteem, not your course grade.

Grades will be based on weighted evaluation, as follows:

20% — Reading Quiz Score (drop two lowest scores)
10% — Class Discussion / Leadership (oral)
10% — Book Review (oral)
10% — Book Review (written)
10% — Midterm Reflective Self-evaluation
20% — Final Reflective Self-evaluation
20% — Social Impact Project; Self-evaluation and Team Peer Evaluation
With the exception of the quiz scores, the grades in the course are subjective. A grade will be assigned for a given activity on the following general basis:
A ... work is beyond expectation, surprisingly high quality
B ... all expectations were fulfilled with high quality results
C ... most expectations were fulfilled with average or better quality
D ... few of the expectations were fulfilled with average or better quality
F ... work is missing or is of significantly low quality

General information

Timely and regular class attendance is critical in a discussion-oriented course such as this. Accordingly, attendance and useful class participation can have a large impact on the course grade. There are no excused absences from the class. Arrival at the class more than 10 minutes late is considered an "administrative absence." Many classes have significant advance reading assignments. Preparation for class will be assessed by a brief quiz related to the required reading.

CAUTION: The final course grade will be reduced by 2% for each class missed for students who are absent (or unprepared) for four or more class sessions.

Gordon College policy states that for each semester hour of credit, students should expect to spend a minimum of 2-3 hours per week outside of class in engaged academic time. This time includes reading, writing, studying, completing assignments, lab work, or group projects, among other activities. PLEASE KNOW THAT THIS CLASS IS DEMANDING IN TERMS OF READING REQUIRED.

Students with Disabilities

Gordon College is committed to assisting students with documented disabilities. (See Academic Catalog Appendix C, for documentation guidelines.) A student with a disability who may need academic accommodations should follow this procedure:

  1. Meet with a staff person from the Academic Support Center (Jenks 412, x4746) to:
    1. make sure documentation of your disability is on file in the ASC,
    2. discuss the accommodations for which you are eligible,
    3. discuss the procedures for obtaining the accommodations, and
    4. obtain a Faculty Notification Form.
  2. Deliver a Faculty Notification Form to each course professor within the first full week of the semester; at that time make an appointment to discuss your needs with each professor.

Failure to register in time with your professor and the ASC may compromise our ability to provide the accommodations. Questions or disputes about accommodations should be immediately referred to the Academic Support Center. See Grievance Procedures available from the ASC.

Class Sessions — Tentative Schedule


August 24, Syllabus

August 26, History - The Machine That Changed The World

     Video presentation

August 29 - Required reading before class: PAST Watson, Bruce. "For a while, The Luddites had a Smashing Success." Smithsonian, Vol. 24, Issue 1 (April 1993): pp 140-53. (Available in HTML text on Library site. Go to link and select "Journal Finder") PRESENT "Social Impact Statements," Schneiderman (emailed) "FUTURE" Robbie, Isaac Asimov (emailed) August 31 - Social Impact, student led discussion Perform an ad hoc Social Impact Statement analysis on this use of technology: Chili's installs 45,000 tablets in its restaurants Include the following in your word-processed report 1. brief description of the topic 2. explanation of why it is an event related to social impact 3. description of the affected stakeholders 4. thoughts about various ways the event could have been handled 5. recommendations to the decision-maker September 2 - The Philosophy of Ethics Guest lecture on Ethics Dr. Mark Gedney, Gordon College Department of Philosophy Required reading before class: Spinello, chapter 1 Gedney, Ethical Theory

September 5 - LABOR DAY - No classes September 7 - The Internet and Ethical Values Required reading before class: Moor, Just Consequentialism and Computing (emailed) ACM Code of Ethics September 9 - Brainstorm Speed Dating Begin to organize teams and brainstorm about projects Required before class: Come with a list of three to five different ways you might want to share Computer/Society issues with others or ways that you might want to be of direct service to to others using your technical knowledge. Be specific. Instead of "organize a debate," for example, include the topics of the debate, who you have in mind to participate, and who would be in the audience. This can be a bullet list but the three to five ideas must each be relatively different. (For example, debates about three different topics is one idea)

September 12 - Report back on team organization and proposed project September 14 - Technology Inventory * * * Class does not meet today * * * Follow in-class instructions to complete 24-hour inventory. September 16 - Student led 1. Discussion of Technology Inventory results 2. Views of the future through the lens of literature Required reading before class (Note - this is a lengthy reading assignment!): Last name begins A-L: Thoreau, "Economy" from Walden Last name begins M-Z: Butler, "The Book of the Machines" from Erewhon, Chapters XXIII - XXV

September 19 - Regulating and Governing the Internet Required preparation 1. Special interest groups, search for mission statement and history EFF Electronic Frontier Foundation CDT Center for Democracy and Technology 2. Scanning the media sources that you can find bring in an example of at least one current event (within the past year) topic that relates to the governing and regulating the internet, for example, many of the items you will find referenced on the Special Interest Group sites above. For your topic come with the following, word-processed, information: 1. brief description of the topic 2. explanation of why it is an event related to governance 3. who are the relevant decision-makers 4. what do you think the outcome should be? 5. what is the ethical theory that supports your opinion? Try to search deeply since I will ask each of you to share your findings. I want more than a few examples from within our class! September 21 - Green Computing Required sites to explore: Green Computing, CoSN - Consortium for School Networking IEEE Sustainable Computing Planet Blue, University of Michigan Come to class prepared to discuss the key concerns that are related to green or sustainable computing. September 23 - Social Impact Project team reports Each Social Impact Team will report to the class (in 6-8 minutes): o Their planned outcome o Steps that need to be taken to accomplish the outcome o Next steps and time line o Other items as appropriate to the team DUE TODAY by responding to the Google form emailed to you last Monday Two or three links to resources related to hacktivism DEADLINE: 5:00PM

September 26 - Class selected topic #1 - Hacktivism DUE TODAY - Reflection from Snowden film Carefully review the four links that you were assigned - see email to class Come to class prepared to discuss the content you have reviewed Please note - The views and opinions expressed in these linked articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Gordon College or any of its employees. "General background" category 1. History of hacktivism 2. A more academic take on hackers, Anonymous, and hacktivism 3. Getting to the core of what the term "hactivism" means, implies, and is evolving in meaning 4. Informative blog on ethical hacking 5. IT lawyer explains complicated nuances involved in Hacktivism 6. Possibility of viewing Hacktivism as art, not dissimilar to graffiti 7. Hacktivism as a protest like any of the traditional forms of protest 8. Is hacktivism civil disobedience or a cyber-crime 9. The quickest way to learn about something is to read the top of the Wikipedia article for it 10. Cybercriminal, hacker, and hacktivist 11. General description of hacktivism 12. Tech Patriots: The Rise of the Hacktivist --- "Digging a little deeper" category 1. Hacktivism has become a weapon that brings global media attention 2. Explanation of the terms "white hat", "black hat", and "gray hat" 3. Net security software vendors are getting into hacktivism 4. Mr. Robot, a new series centered around a hacktivist protagonist 5. Career paths for people who hope to become ethical hackers 6. The actual threat on hacktivism 7. Legal codes that the FBI cite to call hacktivism "terrorism" 8. Nine examples of how hacktivists shock the world in 2012 9. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange offers to turn himself in, if ... 10. Some of the most popular hacktivist groups 11. Anonymous and WikiLeaks 12. Anonymous has pulled off a series of especially infamous hacks --- "Specific examples" category 1. Hackers hacked into the DNC in order to find incriminating evidence against members of the DNC 2. Article from October 2014 calling for an increase in Hacktivism, especially with regards to the group Anonymous 3. ISIS hacktivism activity over the years 4. NSA workers who tried to inform the public of what the NSA was doing before Snowden succeeded 5. Hacker exposes rape, faces longer sentence than rapists 6. CVS Photo website has been hacked and users' credit card information has leaked out 7. Argues that hacktivists and leakers are better journalists that much of mainstream journalism 8. Chinese hactivists hacked into Vietnamese airports 9. UCLA's hospital was hacked 10. Case in which hacktivism was more harmful than helpful 11. Syrian Electronic Army getting arrest 12. Russian hackers release information regarding top athletes and their use of drugs --- "Anonymous and miscellaneous" category 1. Anonymous took down nine banks in 30 day cyber attack 2. Anonymous hacked into various KKK sites, gathering identifying information about various KKK members 3. Anonymous and their fight against ISIS 4. Anonymous shutting down the KKK website 5. Anonymous declared cyber war on ISIS 6. Anonymous released private information about Donald Trump 7. Anonymous takes over Syrian Defense Ministry web site 8. Anonymous take down 40 child porn sites 9. Anonymous news webcasts with the goal of reporting the whole truth in objective manner 10. Anonymous and WikiLeaks 11. The Jester hacks Westboro baptist church 12. Argument against pardoning Edward Snowden ---- Optional: Film about Aaron Swartz and the controversy that follows as he is prosecuted for a 'hacktivist' act ---- September 28 - Student-led discussion Required viewing before class: Edward Snowden: Live From Russia Institute of Politics Speakers Series, The University of Chicago May 12, 2016 (1:13 run time) Expect a "viewing" quiz Class discussion - Snowden, Wikileaks, Anonymous: Heroes/Villains, Angels/Demons, or does this issue transcend a binary conclusion? September 30 - Student-led discussion RISKS Digest review Select the RISKS Digest that was published in the week of your most recent birthday Be prepared to share the "most interesting" risk that you find in your issue.

October 3 - Equity and Access, "The Digital Divide" Required reading before class: UN Resolution, The promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet Court Backs Rules Treating Internet as Utility, Not Luxury, New York Times Read two of these essays as assigned: Last name begins with A - H Tim Berners-Lee Calls for Free Internet Worldwide, BBC Internet access is not a human right, Vint Cerf, New York Times Last name begins with K - P Internet access is a human right, says United Nations (includes 4 minute video) Why doesn't Amazon offer same-day service in Roxbury, Boston Globe Last name begins with Q - Z Right To Internet Access/Finland, ICT Toolkit Grand Ayatollah Issues Fatwa Stating High Speed Internet is against Sharia, ICHRI October 5 - Class was canceled today October 7 - Social Impact Project reports

October 10 - Student-led discussion Required viewing and reading before class: Who's Not Online video (8 minutes) Pew Research Center, November 2013 13% of Americans don't use the internet. Who are they? Pew Research Center, September 2016 Explore one of these in depth, as assigned - be prepared to discuss in class: 1. One Laptop Per Child initiative 2. GrameenPhone, search for mission 3. World Computer Exchange 4. Web Accessibiliy Initiative 5. Digital Divide Institute 6. The Imara Project 7. Digital Divide Data October 12 - Free Speech and Content Control in Cyberspace Required reading before class: Spinello, chapter 3 First Amendment of the United States Constitution Freedom of Expression: The Philosophical Basis Overview of Free Speech Protection EPIC Browse: First Amendment Center

* * * Midterm break * * *

October 17 - Privacy and Ubicomp (Pervasive Computing) Required reading before class: Spinello, chapter 5 Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), FTC Read Part A. GENERAL QUESTIONS ABOUT THE COPPA RULE, parts 1, 2, and 3 only. Facebook/COPPA discussion, NYT Browse and explore European Digital Rights, EDRi Privacy & Civil Liberties Federal Statutes relevant in the Information Sharing Environment (ISE), US DOJ October 19 - Privacy and Ubicomp (Pervasive Computing); Student-led discussion Required reading before class: 1984 by George Orwell Watchdog's Big Brother UK warning, BBC Tech pioneer with augmented-reality glasses assaulted in Paris McDonald's, Daily Mail Online, UK Samsung Smart TV Hackers penetrate Samsung Smart TV The Right To Be Forgotten AND browse and explore one of these in depth - be prepared to discuss in class: Privacy International The Privacy Forum Computers Freedom and Privacy Conference Electronic Privacy Information Center Privacy.Org, the site for news, information and action Privacy.Net, The Consumer Information Organization BONUS OPTION (lengthy reading that is not required but is historically significant!) The Right to Privacy, Warren and Brandeis (lengthy article) October 21 - Social Impact Project reports

October 24 - Invisibilia NPR Podcast Our Computers, Ourselves, Feb 12, 2015. Download, listen, and take notes. October 26 - Reclaiming Conversation The Case For Conversation October 28 - Social Impact Project reports

October 31 - Reclaiming Conversation One Chair November 2 - Social Impact teams meet Breakfast in Lane with team November 4 - Social Impact Project reports Strengths, Weaknesses, Barriers, Opportunities

November 7 - Reclaiming Conversation Two Chairs November 9 - Interlude #1 Screening of Transcendent Man: Prepare To Evolve (1st half) November 11 - TBA

November 14 - Reclaiming Conversation Three Chairs November 16 - Interlude #2 Screening of Transcendent Man: Prepare To Evolve (2nd half) READING: Why The Future Doesn't Need Us, Bill Joy Promise and Peril - A response to Bill Joy, Ray Kurzweil November 18 - Reclaiming Conversation The Path Forward The Fourth Chair

November 21 - Class selected topic #2 - Transhumanism Carefully review the four links that you were assigned - see email to class Come to class prepared to discuss the content you have reviewed Please note - The views and opinions expressed in these linked articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Gordon College or any of its employees. "General background" category 1. What is transhumanism? 2. Will technology allow us to transcend the human condition? 3. What is this transhumanism stuff, anyway? 4. The Coming Transhuman era [video] 5. Transhumanism [Wikipedia] 6. Transhumanism is Inevitable 7. When Will We Be Transhuman? 8. Are You Ready for the Future of Transhumanism? 9. A New Generation of Transhumanists Is Emerging 10. Five Science and Technology Predictions for the Next 10 Years 11. How Transhumanism Works 12. 2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal --- "Specific examples" category 1. Soon we'll use science to make people more moral 2. Man implants magnets to make his ears into their own headphones 3. Paralyzed Monkeys Able to Walk Again With Brain Implant 4. Want To Live Forever? 5. How to Live Forever 6. Why true bionic limbs are out of reach . . . for now 7. Frozen child: The youngest person to be cryogenically preserved 8. Humanity and AI Will Be Inseparable 9. What is transhumanism, or, what does it mean to be human? 10. SOMA and the dirty, nasty side of human nature 11. Unless we act quickly, humans will be house pets to robots, says Elon Musk 12. Cyberpunk and Transhuman Technologies You Can Try Right Now --- "Ethics, Spirituality & Fears" category 1. The ethics of transhumanism 2. The Morality of Artificial Intelligence 3. Why There's Still Room for Spirituality in Transhumanism 4. Transhumanism and the Great Rebellion 5. Christian Transhumanist Association 6. Transhumanist Values 7. Fearing the Robot Rebellion 8. When Cyborgs and Christians Compromise 9. Is the transhumanist movement a threat to our survival? 10. The Hubris of Transhumanism 11. Epic Debate between Christianity and Transhumanism 12. Is transhumanism really the world's most dangerous idea? --- "Grab-bag" category 1. The Opposing Leaders of the Transhumanist Movement Got Salty in a Debate 2. Transhumanist Party 3. The Ice Age cometh 4. Could Technology Make You Immortal? 5. The Transhumanists' Nominee for President 6. Six billionaires who want to live forever 7. A New Generation of Transhumanists Is Emerging 8. Top Ten Transhumanist Technologies 9. Use link #1 above 10. Use link #2 above 11. Use link #3 above 12. Use link #4 above

* * * Thanksgiving Break * * *

November 28 - Book review - 1/3 class, chosen at random on day of presentation November 30 - Book review - 1/3 class December 2 - Book review - 1/3 class

December 5 - Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom Free text download: Gutenberg Free audiobook download: mp3 format Free audiobook download: iTunes format Background reading: The Whuffie Manifesto December 7 - Science and Being; God and Computers Required listening/reading - be prepared to discuss in class: Science & Being, Speaking of Faith, American Public Media (particularly relevant section is interview with Anne Foerst, from minute 13:00 through minute 29:00) Human and Machine Dignity, Rosalind Picard

December 14 - Social Impact Project Presentations 9:00 - 11:00 AM