Monitoring the ethics and expertise curriculum at Stanford over the previous 10 years


The moral use of expertise has emerged as a spotlight each inside and out of doors of the tech business lately. Over the previous decade, public dialogue has turned to the conduct of companies in Silicon Valley and their ramifications throughout society — their accumulating and sharing customers’ information, the rising use of social media to unfold false data or incite violence and the event of racially biased medical algorithms predominantly skilled on information from white sufferers, for instance. Know-how continues to develop at a speedy tempo and is pervasive in our on a regular basis lives, encompassing driving, private leisure, health, healthcare and extra.  

Because the influence of expertise on society continues to develop, Stanford’s curricula has adopted swimsuit. The Day by day’s Knowledge Crew examined information collected over the previous 10 years from Discover Programs to investigate enrollment developments in tech and tech ethics courses. The variety of tech courses supplied at Stanford has elevated and enrollment in tech courses has additionally elevated. Nonetheless, the variety of tech ethics programs supplied by the college and the enrollment figures in these courses haven’t saved up.

The Knowledge Crew outlined “tech” programs as these which are within the Pc Science division or embrace the time period ‘information science,’ ‘expertise,’ ‘cyber,’ ‘AI,’ ‘synthetic intelligence,’ ‘laptop science,’ ‘laptop’ or ‘digital,’ of their course descriptions. “Ethics” programs are outlined as people who embrace the time period ‘society,’ ‘ethics,’ ‘ethical,’ ‘social influence’ or ‘justice.’ “Tech ethics” programs are outlined as people who include at the very least one tech and one ethics key phrase. 

The above graph exhibits that the variety of tech, ethics and tech ethics programs at Stanford have elevated over the previous 10 years. Nonetheless, in 2010-11, the college was providing drastically larger numbers of tech and ethics programs than tech ethics programs. This pattern has continued all through the 2010s, and within the 2019-20 faculty yr, Stanford supplied 926 tech programs, 746 ethics programs and 103 tech ethics programs. 

The variety of programs supplied doesn’t essentially correspond to precise scholar participation, so we subsequent study scholar enrollment throughout course classes.

The above graph exhibits the enrollment in ethics and tech programs over the previous 10 years. Enrollment was highest within the tech programs, adopted by ethics programs after which tech ethics programs, starting within the 2010-11 faculty yr. Enrollment in tech programs elevated steadily over the previous 10 years, from 23,550 to 36,614. Enrollment in ethics and tech ethics programs has remained a lot decrease compared, with ethics programs beginning at enrollment of 10,412 and transferring to 12,039 within the 2019-20 faculty yr. In tech ethics programs, enrollment ranges started at 1,775 college students in 2010-11 and had been at 2,465 in 2019-20. 

Regardless of the variations in enrollment numbers, the variety of college students enrolled in tech, ethics or tech ethics programs elevated or noticed little change every faculty yr. One exception is 2011-12, when enrollment in each ethics and tech ethics programs decreased. 

One potential motive for the slight drop in enrollment in 2012-13 is that the required programs for freshmen, Introduction to Humanities (IHUM) changed to Pondering Issues (THINK). Whereas IHUM courses were massive and required for all three quarters of freshmen yr, THINK programs are solely required for one quarter and have fewer college students per class. 

Taken collectively, modifications in enrollment annually in tech, ethic and tech ethics programs present that regardless of will increase within the variety of tech ethics courses supplied, enrollment in these programs has not modified dramatically. The comparatively slower progress in enrollment for tech ethics programs may be defined by much less restrictive enrollment caps for a lot of CS programs.

A shift: Elevated reputation in tech programs and extra initiatives selling tech ethics

In comparison with a decade in the past, the “college itself is taking an curiosity in these programs,” in keeping with Robert Reich, Stanford political science professor and the director of the Heart for Ethics in Society. 

“There are numerous extra makes an attempt to construct bridges between the Faculty of Humanities and Sciences and the Faculty of Engineering than there was,” Reich stated. 

One instance is the presidential initiative on ethics, society and expertise. This initiative is mirrored within the college’s Long-Range Vision and led to creation of the Ethics, Society & Technology (EST) Hub, which pushes for integrating ethics into a greater variety of programs. 

Concurrently, Reich stated he witnessed the “the good migration of scholars” from the social sciences a part of campus to the engineering quad.   

“The college was starting to specific anxiousness concerning the a lot bigger numbers of individuals majoring in CS and the less enrollments in humanities and social sciences,” he stated. 

These developments motivated Reich together with Jeremy Weinstein, Stanford political science professor; Mehran Sahami, Affiliate Chair for Training within the Stanford Pc Science division; and Hilary Cohen, Stanford lecturer, to create CS182: Ethics, Public Coverage and Technological Change. The course, first supplied in Winter 2018-19, is taught by college from a wide range of disciplines and provides a singular interdisciplinary expertise to college students. 

“Reasonably than inform college students within the CS setting that they need to take a course in ethical philosophy or political philosophy as a method of exploring the moral dimension… you need them in dialogue with each other in the identical class,” Reich stated. 

The EST Hub can also be working to combine ethics curriculum into tech programs by means of the Embedded EthiCS initiative that launched this faculty yr. One of many CS courses with the brand new ethics part is CS106A: Introduction to Programming Methodology. In CS106A, Kathleen Creel, a visitor lecturer whose analysis is concentrated on the political and moral implications of machine studying, attended varied lectures to debate the ethics of what college students had realized at school. Some subjects the visitor lecturer coated had been the ethics of picture manipulation, the best way to make tech accessible to customers past the USA and analyzing the adjectives used to match female and male academics. 

Avika Patel ’24, who took CS106A in Fall 2020, felt that the ethics part of CS106A was very efficient. In line with Patel, making the assignments written made them extra highly effective because it inspired college students to think about the moral implications of recent expertise. 

“If I work at a tech firm, these (ethics assignments) are so necessary however straightforward to neglect,” Patel stated.  

One other CS106A scholar, Deepan Shah ’24, additionally appreciated the combination of ethics into the CS106A curriculum. 

“I like the choice to combine ethics into CS courses comparatively early on, as instilling that information early in college students’ CS schooling will assist them make ethically knowledgeable choices now and of their future careers,” Shah stated. 

Patel’s and Shah’s experiences in CS106A replicate a brand new era of scholars who will start their laptop science schooling at Stanford outfitted with the instruments to guage the ethics of expertise in society.

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