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Computers in Society:  2019-2020



Schedule S1(CS&P)Computer Science and Philosophy

Schedule BMSc in Computer Science



The course will focus on some of the most pressing ethical, legal, and policy-related problems that contemporary societies face in the age of the information revolution. Core topics will be professional responsibilities of software developers as well as individual rights in the information age, balancing of cybersecurity measures and individual liberties, cyberwarfare and cyberactivism.

The main objectives of the module will be to expose students to the ethical and legal problems raised by the pervasive dissemination of computing technologies, thereby fostering critical reflection upon such problems.

Assessment criteria: the assessment will focus on the depth of the understanding of the key topics of the course, knowledge of the relevant literature, critical skills and ability to relate the topics discussed during the course to concrete cases of design and deployment of computing technology. In more detail, assessment will be based on a take home final essay (3000 words, references excluded).

The lectures for this course are recorded, and the recordings released at the end of each week of term. Please click here to access the recordings.

Learning outcomes

The learning outcomes envisaged for this module are as follows:

•A broad knowledge and refined understanding of the relevant literature on ethical and legal issues pertaining computing technology;

•Awareness of the importance of considering ethical and societal implications at both the design and deployment stages of technological artefacts;

•Provision of informed opinions in debates about topics relating to technology and its effects on society;

•Refinement of presentation, writing and critical skills.


Week 1 Information societies and the governance of the digital

Week 2 Ethics of AI

Week 3 Free speech and individual rights online

Week 4 Online Service Providers and their responsibilities

Week 5 Automation: moral and legal responsibility of designers and professional codes of practice

Week 6 Digital technologies and political power

Week 7 Cyber-conflicts: ethical and regulatory gap

Week 8 Values and Design

Reading list

It is recommended that students read:

  • Baase, Sara. 2013. A Gift of Fire: Social, Legal, and Ethical Issues for Computing Technology. 4th edn. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
  • Baggini, Julian. 2007. The Ethics Toolkit: a Compendium of Ethical Concepts and Methods. Malden, MA: Oxford: Blackwell (Parts II and III)
  • Floridi, Luciano. 2010. Information: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions 225. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Other Readings

  • Denning. 2007. “The Ethics of Cyber Conflict.” In Information and Computer Ethics. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  • Dipert, R. 2010. “The Ethics of Cyberwarfare.” Journal of Military Ethics 9 (4): 384– 410. Floridi, L. 2007. “Understanding Information Ethics.” APA Newsletter on Philosophy and Computers 7 (1): 3–12.
  • Floridi, L. 2009. “The Information Society and its Philosophy: Introduction to the Special Issue on ‘The Philosophy of Information, its Nature, and Future Developments’.” The Information Society 25 (3): 153–58.
  • Floridi, Luciano, and J. W. Sanders. 2004. “On the Morality of Artificial Agents.” Minds and Machines 14 (3): 349–79.
  • Hick, Steven, Edward F Halpin, and Eric Hoskins. 2000. Human Rights and the Internet. New York: St Martin’s Press.
  • Hildebrandt, Mireille. 2008. “Profiling and the Identity of the European Citizen.” In Profiling the European Citizen, edited by Mireille Hildebrandt and Serge Gutwirth, 303–43. Springer Netherlands.
  • Hildebrandt, Mireille. 2013. “Balance or Trade-off? Online Security Technologies and Fundamental Rights.” Philosophy & Technology 26 (4): 357–79.
  • Jordan, Tim, and Paul Taylor. 2004. Hacktivism and Cyberwars: Rebels with a Cause? London: Routledge.
  • Lucas, G. R. 2014. “Permissible Preventive Cyber Warfare.” In The Ethics of Information Warfare, edited by L. Floridi and M. Taddeo. New York: Springer.
  • Matthias, A. 2004. “The Responsibility Gap: Ascribing Responsibility for the Actions of Learning Automata.” Ethics and Information Technology 6 (3): 175–83.
  • Moor, James H. 1985. “What is Computer Ethics?” Metaphilosophy 16 (4): 266–75.
  • Nissenbaum, H. 1998. “Protecting Privacy in an Information Age: The Problem of Privacy in Public” Law and Philosophy (17 (5-6): 559-596.
  • Schmitt, M. 2013. “Cyberspace and International Law: The Penumbral Mist of Uncertainty.” Harvard Law Review 126 (176): 176–80.
  • Sparrow, Robert. 2007. “Killer Robots.” Journal of Applied Philosophy 24 (1): 62–77.
  • Swickert, Rhonda J., James B. Hittner, Jamie L. Harris, and Jennifer A. Herring. 2002. “Relationships Among Internet Use, Personality, and Social Support.” Computers in Human Behavior 18 (4): 437–51.
  • Taddeo, Mariarosaria. 2014. “Just Information Warfare.” Topoi (April): 1–12.
  • Turilli, Matteo, and Luciano Floridi. 2009. “The Ethics of Information Transparency.” Ethics and Information Technology 11 (2): 105–12.