To the Editor:
Thank you to The Crimson Editorial Board for your enthusiastic reception of the Embedded EthiCS program. The team responsible for the program, including a dedicated group of graduate student teaching fellows, is excited about the program, and we are very happy that undergrads are too. As you say, it is important that we in higher education help students learn to engage with the ethical dimensions of the technology they will be creating and using. Regulation alone cannot keep up with the rapid pace of technological development. The creators of technology should design their systems in a morally reflective and socially responsible way.
We want to clarify a couple of things in the staff editorial just so that readers have a better understanding of where the program is. First, Embedded EthiCS, with modules developed and taught by Philosophy graduate students for existing Computer Science courses, aims to give computer science students tools for thinking through the ethical dimensions of their work in a variety of course contexts. While the creation of “ethics based” or even fully “interdisciplinary” courses are wonderful ideas, we aren’t able to do these on a broad scale yet. CS 105: “Privacy and Technology” and CS 108: “Intelligent Systems: Design and Ethical Challenges,” which have been around for some time, fully integrate both philosophy and computer science. More courses like these would be great, but we simply do not have the faculty to mount them. Second, we do not yet have a “plan” to bring something like Embedded EthiCS into the Life Sciences and the Medical School although we fully support such an expansion and have been approached by faculty in those areas who are interested. But we can’t expand until we have faculty to mount the courses and develop the program. We are hopeful about growth and expansion!
Alison J. Simmons is a Samuel H. Wolcott Professor of Philosophy. Barbara J. Grosz is a Higgins Professor of Natural Science. They are the creators of the Embedded EthiCS program.