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Emanuelle Burton ( email@example.com) is a faculty member
in the Computer Science Department at the University of
Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.
Judy Goldsmith ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is a professor of
computer science in the Computer Science Department at
the University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA.
Nicholas Mattei ( email@example.com) is a research staff
member with the IBM Research AI-Reasoning Lab at the
T.J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY, USA.
Copyright held by the authors.
Publication rights licensed to ACM. $15.00
taken? Describe them, again using the
language of your assigned theory. According to that theory, what might be a
better course of action, and why?
Argument. What argument do you
think the ending of the story intends
to make? You are still describing,
rather than arguing. Use the language
of your assigned theory to describe
Students will bring these assignments to class on the day they are
due. They are welcome to make notes
on them, over the course of discussion, for their own edification and
turn them in to the professor at the
end of class.
Teaching ethics to computer science
students is a pressing responsibility
for computer science faculty but also
a challenge. Using fiction as the basis for an ethics course offers several
advantages beyond its immediate appeal to many students and some faculty. First, fiction offers students a
way to engage with ethical questions
that helps them cultivate their capacity for moral imagination; science
fiction in particular can make the
ethical stakes of blue-sky projects
vivid, pressing, and immediate. Second, stories offer students the
chance to develop their writing and
verbal skills in ethical description.
And finally, discussing ethics in the
context of fiction can make it easier
for instructors to adopt an open-ended approach required for a good ethics course. A course built around fiction enables instructors to incorporate
the best and most useful aspects of a
humanistic approach to ethics education while remaining close to the central technological concerns within
We would like to thank John Fike, Cory
Siler, and Sara-Jo Swiatek for proofreading and discussion to improve this article. The ideas here are based on work
supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1646887. Any
opinions, findings, and conclusions or
recommendations expressed in this
material are those of the authors and
do not necessarily reflect the views of
the National Science Foundation.
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