Course Description for CSC 199/299:
Social Implications of Computing

Spring 2016

Computers and the Internet, perhaps more than any other technology, have transformed society over the past 50 years.  In developed nations, at least, they have enabled dramatic increases in human productivity; an explosion of options for news, entertainment, and communication; and fundamental breakthroughs in almost every branch of science and engineering.  At the same time, they have contributed to unprecedented threats to privacy; whole new categories of crime and anti-social behavior; major disruptions in the job market; and the large-scale concentration of risk into systems capable of catastrophic failure.  In this discussion- and writing-oriented class, we will consider all of this and more, with the goal of better understanding how to shape technological change in ways that maximize the benefits and minimize the costs. 

The exact topics to be covered will depend in large part on the interests of students enrolled.  Possibilities include:

the “digital divide”; Internet neutrality
privacy and freedom of speech:
data mining; social networks; electronic footprints; monitoring and surveillance; anonymity; the Patriot Act; government access to / control over Internet traffic
cyber crime and risks:
theft (of money; IP); kiddie porn; predation; Internet gambling; spam; phishing; electronic voting
intellectual property:
software patents; copyright; music sharing; digital rights management; the Digital Millenium Copyright Act; open source
environmental impact and sustainability:
energy and water use in server clusters; planned obsolescence; recycling; use of toxic materials; climate modeling
the job market:
technological displacement; off-shoreing; employee monitoring; death of newspapers; books?
social dynamics:
social media v. in-person interaction; cyber bullying; cyber addiction; “down time”; on-line gaming
classroom technology; the end of the lecture; massive open online courses (MOOCs)
risk concentration:
medical records; fly-by-wire, etc.; nuclear power; computerized warfare
smart grid (electric power distribution); modeling (climate, genomics, pharmacology, etc.); resource prospecting; AI; assistive technology; “digital democracy”
choices & ethics:
professional conduct; which technologies?

We’ll also be watching the news; class discussion may be shaped by current events.

Last Change:  03 January 2016 / Michael Scott's email address