James Moor begins with the commonplace that computers provide

James Moor begins with the commonplace that computers provide us with new capabilities and, consequently, new choices for action. He proposes that a central task of computer ethics is to determine what we should do in cases where, because of policy vacuums and associated conceptual muddles, no adequate policy exists to guide our actions.

James Moor begins with the commonplace that computers provide

James Moor begins with the commonplace that computers provide us with new capabilities and, consequently, new choices for action. He proposes that a central task of computer ethics is to determine what we should do in cases where, because of policy vacuums and associated conceptual muddles, no adequate policy exists to guide our actions.

He notes, further, that “[e]ven within a coherent conceptual framework, the formulation of a policy for using computer technology can be difficult. As we consider different policies we discover something about what we value and what we don’t. Because computer technology provides us with new possibilities for acting, new values emerge.”

Here is a list of general topic areas with, in each case, a few aspects specific to that area (though some aspects may touch on multiple areas):

Firstly, Privacy – e.g. smart devices/IOT, data brokering, psychometrics, etc.

Secondly,  Surveillance – e.g. government monitoring, illicit private monitoring, etc.

Thirdly, Speech on the Internet – e.g. hate speech, incitement, harassment/bullying, advertising masquerading as content, etc.

Fourthly, Tech and Democracy – e.g. voting machines, political advertising, election interference, etc.

Further, Fairness in systems using Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning for decision making. E.g. in the justice system, or access to employment, finance, and housing, etc.

The Major Paper Assignment asks that you select, as the focus of your study, an aspect of a topic of current relevance that presents one of Moor’s policy and/or conceptual vacuums. You may choose from the list given or, alternatively, choose another topic in which you are deeply interested and can persuade us falls under Moor’s formulation. There’s a piece of advice from Kurt Vonnegut that seems appropriate here. It’s the first on a short list of strategies he gave for effective writing: “Find a subject you care about.” The list provided and the option of a wild-card choice of your own devising is designed to help you do this. Vonnegut’s advice is a sort of prophylaxis against finding yourself, three weeks or a month from now, bored out of your gourd and struggling hopelessly to complete an assignment that’s become an enormous burden.

Chinese citizen, concern about internet privacy in Asian countries, particularly in China.

Though the assignment is described as a two-part paper, there are actually three deliverables for this assignment.

1        Your topic proposal – a brief document (one or two pages) describing the problem you intend to study with a short explanation of how it meets Moor’s definition, and a preliminary bibliography of at least four sources, no more than two of which appear in our syllabus.
2        The first main part of the paper itself – an exposition of the findings of the research you will have carried out on the current state of affairs regarding the topic, laying out in adequate detail how this situation exposes shortcomings of or tensions with our current legal, conceptual, or policy frameworks.

3        The second main part of the paper asks you to describe and evaluate some possible solutions to the problem. These solutions may be those proposed by others or ideas of your own. The goal here is to identify potential trade-offs involved in the solutions rather than trying to find the optimal policy or intervention. What are the potential benefits or harms that each might reasonably be expected to produce (and for whom)?  What might the adoption of each imply about our values?

Here are the bare requirements for each of these three deliverables.

The topic proposal should be submit ed electronically. It is due two weeks from now – by the end of the day, Thursday, February 6th. Each of the main parts of the paper should be 1200 to 1600 words in length. (The moral equivalent of a five-page paper in each case.) Naturally, if you find that you must write more to explain the situation and your ideas satisfactorily, we will read what you’ve produced with great interest and without prejudice. The first main part will be due March 17th, as given in the syllabus.  Similarly, the syllabus gives April 14th as the due date for the second part.  These dates will also be visible on the assignment submission links on Blackboard.

For your amusement and edification (and to minimize the anticipated woe of the poor wretch who will have to grade your work) here are the remaining items on Vonnegut’s list:

1. Find a subject you care about.

2. Do not ramble, though.

3. Keep it simple.

4. Have the guts to cut.

5. Sound like yourself.

6. Say what you mean to say.

7. Pity the readers.

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