The objective of this seminar is to discuss and derive a clearer understanding of the concepts of Software Engineering and Computer Science. As descriptions of discipline areas these descriptions cannot be expected to have precise meanings.
This discussion should be viewed as an opportunity to reflect on what you have learnt in your program and what it prepares you for after you graduate.
It is also an opportunity to have a dialogue with your fellow seminar members.
For the first seminar, please print the Engineering and Software Engineering .
Read the references and any other material before the seminar and bring it to the seminar. There are other linked documents and you may wish to print some of those also. In particular, the “Are Software Engineers Engineers” document should be read and perhaps printed.
This can be a very wide ranging seminar. Please form your own list of topics that you would like to discuss. That way you can affect the agenda for your seminar.
Try to organise the seminar discussion using the Six Thinking Hats, so please read the short summary document on that strategy on the class website.
Please remember one thing: you are not coming to the seminar to be supplied information from you facilitator. You are coming to take part in a discussion and that should include initiating discussion.
Also, in general, there are no “right answers”. But this course is very much about your future, so there may be “right questions” for you.
The seminar this week is concerned with Codes of Ethics and professional issues arising from such codes.
Scan the codes looking for any points that distinguish the codes and deserve discussion. Such items might be:
This exercise might be best done by splitting the class into, say, 5 small groups, each of which are assignment two codes.
To handle this part of the seminar, again it is suggested that the class splits into 5 small groups with the following roles:
The chosen cases can be based on known examples or they can constructed “on the spot”, none of the discussion is intended to be prearranged, that is the discussion can be created spontaneously and the teams should defend the charges or justify their behaviour.
Particular moral maze: The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), Tuesday 17/03/09, reprinted an obituary on Konrad Dannenberg, first printed in The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/mar/10/space-exploration-secondworldwar), a PDF will saved here.
Dannenberg worked, during WW2, in Germany as a rocket scientist/engineer on the the development of V1/V2 missiles. These missiles were used on various cities in Europe, many on London and other UK cities.
After the war Dannenberg moved to the USA where he worked on rocket development for the US space program. Finally, he was the manager of the Saturn program that produced the rocket that took the first astronauts to the moon.
It could be interesting to examine how the CoE and CoC contribute to a discussion of the moral dilemmas to be found in Dannenberg’s case.
This week’s seminars will begin discussion of the Killer Robot story. This story consists of 9 articles that can be found here and also on the Other Sites page of the class web page . This story forms about half of the Killer Robot book, by Richard Epstein. The book contains extra material that is not online, and contains much interesting ethical discussion and references.
The seminar discussion will be based on the first 6 articles. Please read the articles and bring copies of all 9 articles to the seminar. Please come prepared.
There are some differences between the book and public version of the Killer Robot story.
If you look only at the public version, please also look at the extra prelude articles to the above .
Discuss the case as though it is real. It’s not hard to do.
Remember that this story if being revealed through newspaper reports, and therefore possess all the attributes of a real life incident and its investigation. You are not necessarily getting the truth, or at least not the whole truth.
You might pursue the following points of discussion, but facilitators can proceed however they wish:
Instruction to facilitator: This can be developed into a quite serious discussion. Any person in the class could be charged with manslaughter. Put it to them. You’ve been charged with manslaughter. How do you defend yourself? What would you need to have done to defend yourself against such a charge?
See Peter Ho’s paper on homicide.
Each student in the class should be able to provide a potential cause. All answers can be written on the board, as for the answers to the above questions.
Try to ensure that the answers are coming from all the articles and not being concentrated on just a few articles. If the latter is happening, look for new reasons.
As well as noting the issues, carry out some discussion of the points.
Which are consequences rather than causes? Try to identify significant causes. If the consequences are undesirable, what would you do to prevent them?
Continue the discussion of the Killer Robot story adding the following points.
Again refer to Peter Ho’s paper on homicide.
Make a list of arguments for and against Ray Johnsons Ivory Snow Theory. Are your points valid regardless of the kind of system being considered? Are there systems for which the Ivory Snow Theory makes sense? Are there systems for which it does not make sense?
Was it right for Sam Reynolds to accept his appointment as Robbie CX30 project leader? Who is in the penumbra of this decision? Who is hurt? Who benefits? What are the possible implications of his lack of technical expertise in the team effort? Can he more than compensate with good leadership skills?
Cramer’s conflict of interest is clearly unethical. But why is it unethical? Discuss the penumbra of his decision to use the SHEOL CASE tool. Who is hurt? Who benefits? Consider the following ethical lapses: lying, stealing, cheating. Do these words apply to what John Cramer is trying to do?
List ethical issues that might arise becuase of poor user interface design. Part of this question is to see the various ways in which users can be hurt by a poor user interface. Describe the ways in which a user interface might lie or steal.
Generate a list of suspects you believe should be held accountable in some manner for the killer robot incident.
to get a clear picture of
Material for discussion
You should bring a copies of the Leverson investigation paper to the seminar. This report has very full pages.
You should also consult the teaching material at computingcases.org.
This seminar deals with dataveillance, which is the basis of a lot of modern surveillance.
It should be an objective of this seminar —indeed all seminars— to build well structured ethical arguments. A common weakness in ethical arguments is to identify that some broad activity clearly presents ethical issues, and then the argument becomes concerned with whether the broad activity is ethical or unethical. It is rarely that simple.
Roger Clarke (ANU) coined the name ”dataveillance” in the late 1980 and he has a large website at http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/DV/ on dataveillance.
Get a copy of
More information can be found at http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/DV/.
Discuss the contents of Dataveillance — 15 Years On.
When is a Surveillance Society OK?
http://www.practicalethicsnews.com/practicalethics/2008/06/lex-orwell-when.html Lex Orwell
This seminar is concerned with Rawls’ Theory of Justice
also How Good is Good Enough paper of Collins, et al.
This paper is available from the Papers page of the course web site. Please study this paper before attending your seminar.
In the seminar you should consider the following:
IP: copyright, patents, licensing, etc
Most people will have a view on these things as they can’t be avoided.
Have a look at http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/larry_lessig_says_the_law_is_strangling_creativity.html before you start and then discuss individual attitudes to IP:
At that point, it will be worth looking at
This paper is chapter 3 of the Brian Martin’s book “Information Liberation” by Brian Martin. The complete book can be found at http://www.uow.edu.au/arts/sts/bmartin/pubs/98il/.
A review of the book can be found at http://dannyreviews.com/h/Information_Liberation.html.
This discussion drifts easily into open source development and the free software movement.
A few comments are added here on copyright and patent, as some students are unclear about the distinction.
You might like to have a look at
and decide whether somehow software is different to other manufacturing industry to which patents have applied for 200 years.
I’ll leave it to classes to work out issues to be discussed, but you might like to tackle the following.
On the one hand much software looks like mathematics, so should we patent mathematics? Patents were never intended to cover ideas.
But on the other hand, if we take the concept of Software Engineering seriously then surely an engineering process should allow for some patent capability?
This gets to perhaps the nub of the issue: how do we —or if you like, do we— provide for some form of ownership of invention within software engineering? Of course, you can take Brian Martin’s approach and broaden this question to all areas.
Some other possible questions:
This seminar is concerned with Whistleblowing, which generally describes a person making claims that contradict the statements or claims being made by a private company or public organisation. This frequently produces a situation in which the whistleblower is ostracised from the organisation or even the community.
It is suggested that the class breaks into small groups and each group studies one of the above articles, or any other article on whistleblowing and presents their ideas to the class.