Why are Harvard and MIT Developing Computer Ethics Courses?

Informatics, technology, and fields such as medicine, are increasingly integrated and intermingled so that training experts push for professional development to be accompanied by ethical practices and a renewal of the deontological code.

Recent controversies, the rise of fake news or somewhat controversial advances have cast doubt on this aspiration carried out by the technologists of “first create and then ask for forgiveness.” Therefore, some American universities are already preparing students to deal with the side effects of the technological era.

Until now, few companies had stopped to think about the implication of ethics in their work. But now they see the urgency of updating the skills and abilities of their professionals. Currently, Harvard and MIT collaborate in the teaching of a joint course on ethics and regulation of artificial intelligence. The purpose is that the professionals who move in the fields of innovation take into account the consequences of their inventions and include ethics in the factors to evaluate the effectiveness of their creations.

This training already exists in departments of Philosophy, Law, but the idea is to integrate it into the computer and technical tasks and treat it from the point of view of software engineers or product designers. As the Stanford and MIT faculty comment, software developers are not aware of physical pain, human suffering or social exclusion, when they develop their projects. These are real consequences that are causing new products, such as autonomous cars or the automation of certain processes.

The importance of technological ethics is accentuated with the popularization of some innovations, especially with the weight that automatic learning is charging and the use of algorithms in decisions that directly affect individuals and social groups. The technological potential hides a dark side, and the professionals have to carry out ethical and respectful practices with society.

For the success of this integration, experts insist that we must go beyond individual awareness and that these programs should be integrated into the business policies of large companies. It is already the case of some companies, such as eBay or LinkedIn, since these are the ones that have allocated funds to finance these courses.

In short, the intention is to stimulate the technologists so that, when they work, they also think about: Is technology fair with society? How do I ensure that the data is not biased? Should the machines judge humans?

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