As technology revolutionizes society, new issues require thoughtful responses. Sometimes, these issues take the form of an ethical dilemma, where we have to make a decision that can impact other peoples’ lives. Ethics can help guide our decisions, to minimize harm and liability. However, it is important to remember that such problems rarely have objective, final answers, like those encountered in programming. In the Ethics Essay assignments in this course, you are asked to research ethical theories and guidelines, then write a short essay applying one or more of them to a particular situation. Consider these two ethical scenarios involving computing:
Scenario A – Recommendation Website: On behalf of a client, your company builds a website that asks the user questions about their symptoms and then recommends drugs for treatment. The client requires that their drug be recommended for a broad range of symptoms unless the user is allergic. Disclaimers are posted on the site stating that its recommendations are not medical advice from doctors and that some drugs can have side effects such as depression. It becomes known that two people died by suicide after using the site and taking the client’s drug. What are the ethical ramifications for the client, your company, and yourself?
Scenario B – Autonomous Vehicles: You’re part of a team developing Autonomous Vehicles (AV) that operate without a human driver. The controlling program has to determine what the vehicle will do in various dangerous situations. For example, if there is a danger to pedestrians in a crosswalk, should the AV run off the road into a ditch (endangering the passengers)? Prioritizing potential results in such situations is a difficult problem to solve. What criteria or testing should be in place before such autonomous vehicles are allowed on public roads?
Your job is to consider the ethical issues involved in such a situation, take a stand, and defend it.
Essay Content and Format For this assignment, choose ONE of the two scenarios above, and write a short essay that: summarizes the situation takes a clear stance includes a coherent argument supporting your stance references a relevant ethical theory or guideline (see below), and is written with understandable spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Your overall essay should be between 500 and 750 words (conciseness is important in communicating with colleagues). Your essay should be structured as following: The header of your essay should include a title, your name, and whether you are responding to Scenario A or Scenario B. Summarize the dilemma established by the scenario. Summarize the ethical theory or guideline that you are referencing. Discuss how you apply the theory or guideline to the scenario, take a clear position, and justify that position. After the essay, provide a list of one or more references you used to develop your essay.
The list should include at least one reference to the ethical theory or guideline you used.
Do not plagiarize! Put the ideas into your own words. Make direct quotes clear and use them minimally. The reference list does not contribute to the length limits. The references do not need to be expressed in any particular format, but make it clear. Use URLs in the reference list to provide external information and examples.
Ethical Theories and Guidelines To support your argument, use established ethical theories and guidelines. Do not invent your own theory or simply make an argument without support.
The following sites provide examples of ethical theories and guidelines:
ACM Code of Ethics https://www.acm.org/code-of-ethics
Links to an external site. JMU: Ethical Theories https://www.jmu.edu/ethicalreasoning/docs/131101%208KQ%20Handout%20Revision.pdf
Links to an external site. Wikipedia: Ethical
Use these and/or other professional, recognized guidelines. Spend some time reviewing and considering them.