Tracking the ethics and know-how curriculum at Stanford over the previous 10 years | The Stanford Daily

The moral use of know-how has emerged as a spotlight each inside and out of doors of the tech trade lately. Over the previous decade, public dialogue has turned to the conduct of companies in Silicon Valley and their ramifications throughout society — their gathering 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 educated on information from white sufferers, for instance. Technology 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.  

As the impression of know-how on society continues to develop, Stanford’s curricula has adopted swimsuit. The Daily’s Data Team examined information collected over the previous 10 years from Explore Courses to research enrollment traits in tech and tech ethics lessons. The variety of tech lessons supplied at Stanford has elevated and enrollment in tech lessons has additionally elevated. However, the variety of tech ethics programs supplied by the college and the enrollment figures in these lessons haven’t saved up.

The Data Team outlined “tech” programs as these which are within the Computer Science division or embrace the time period ‘data science,’ ‘technology,’ ‘cyber,’ ‘AI,’ ‘artificial intelligence,’ ‘computer science,’ ‘computer’ or ‘digital,’ of their course descriptions. “Ethics” programs are outlined as people who embrace the time period ‘society,’ ‘ethics,’ ‘moral,’ ‘social impact’ or ‘justice.’ “Tech ethics” programs are outlined as people who comprise at the least one tech and one ethics key phrase. 

The above graph reveals that the variety of tech, ethics and tech ethics programs at Stanford have elevated over the previous 10 years. However, in 2010-11, the college was providing drastically greater numbers of tech and ethics programs than tech ethics programs. This pattern has continued all through the 2010s, and within the 2019-20 college 12 months, 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 reveals 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 college 12 months. 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 shifting to 12,039 within the 2019-20 college 12 months. In tech ethics programs, enrollment ranges started at 1,775 college students in 2010-11 and had been at 2,465 in 2019-20. 

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

One potential cause for the slight drop in enrollment in 2012-13 is that the required programs for freshmen, Introduction to Humanities (IHUM) changed to Thinking Matters (THINK). While IHUM lessons were massive and required for all three quarters of freshmen 12 months, THINK programs are solely required for one quarter and have fewer college students per class. 

Taken collectively, modifications in enrollment every year in tech, ethic and tech ethics programs present that regardless of will increase within the variety of tech ethics lessons 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: Increased recognition in tech programs and extra initiatives selling tech ethics

Compared to a decade in the past, the “university itself is taking an interest in these courses,” in response to Robert Reich, Stanford political science professor and the director of the Center for Ethics in Society. 

“There are many more attempts to build bridges between the School of Humanities and Sciences and the School of Engineering than there used to be,” Reich mentioned. 

One instance is the presidential initiative on ethics, society and know-how. 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 diversity of programs. 

Simultaneously, Reich mentioned he witnessed the “the great migration of students” from the social sciences a part of campus to the engineering quad.   

“The university was beginning to express anxiety about the much larger numbers of people majoring in CS and the fewer enrollments in humanities and social sciences,” he mentioned. 

These traits motivated Reich together with Jeremy Weinstein, Stanford political science professor; Mehran Sahami, Associate Chair for Education within the Stanford Computer Science division; and Hilary Cohen, Stanford lecturer, to create CS182: Ethics, Public Policy and Technological Change. The course, first supplied in Winter 2018-19, is taught by college from quite a lot of disciplines and provides a novel interdisciplinary expertise to college students. 

“Rather than tell students in the CS setting that they should take a course in moral philosophy or political philosophy as a way of exploring the ethical dimension… you want them in dialogue with one another in the same class,” Reich mentioned. 

The EST Hub can also be working to combine ethics curriculum into tech programs by way of the Embedded EthiCS initiative that launched this college 12 months. One of the CS lessons with the brand new ethics part is CS106A: Introduction to Programming Methodology. In CS106A, Kathleen Creel, a visitor lecturer whose analysis is targeted on the political and moral implications of machine studying, attended varied lectures to debate the ethics of what college students had discovered in school. Some subjects the visitor lecturer coated had been the ethics of picture manipulation, the right way to make tech accessible to customers past the United States and analyzing the adjectives used to check female and male academics. 

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

“If I work at a tech company, these (ethics assignments) are so important but easy to forget,” Patel mentioned.  

Another CS106A scholar, Deepan Shah ’24, additionally appreciated the mixing of ethics into the CS106A curriculum. 

“I love the decision to integrate ethics into CS classes relatively early on, as instilling that knowledge early in students’ CS education will help them make ethically informed decisions now and in their future careers,” Shah mentioned. 

Patel’s and Shah’s experiences in CS106A mirror a brand new technology of scholars who will start their laptop science training at Stanford geared up with the instruments to guage the ethics of know-how in society.


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