CS489 Computer Ethics and Social Issues (Autumn 2020)


Time: 10:30-12:00, Mondays and Wednesdays Location: Online (see the Campuswire course page for the zoom link)


Shin Yoo shin.yoo@kaist.ac.kr Office: E3-1 Room 2405


All class announcements, as well as Q&A, will take place using Campuswire. You are required to join if you want to continue this course. It is strongly recommended that you install the mobile client, to get notifications. The invitation link will be shared during the first class.


This course is concerned with a broad range of ethical issues that are closely related to, or have their origins at, computing technology and their uses. The aim of the course is not to find the answer to these problems. Rather, we will examine them from various angles together and discuss what we can do.

Another very important apsect of this course is that we will go through concrete technology that can help us while dealing with these issues. For example, instead of just saying that privacy is important, we will also look at techniques that allow you to effetively hide your data. Instead of just saying that a society should be fair, we will look at techniques that test large software systems for fairness.


  • Active Class Participation: a non-trivial part of this course is in-class presentation and discussion. If you just sit quietly, you will not gain much from this course. Also, note that class participation is 30% of the whole grade.
  • Strong programming skills: you are required to develop an individual course project. There will be also a number of hands-on sessions where we will program together during the class.
  • Unix/Linux-savvy: you should be familiar with the usual build tools and Unix/Linux command line environments.
  • Git-aware: you will be required to submit a github repository as part of your project deliverables.
  • Ideally, a laptop you can bring to the classroom. If this becomes a problem, let me know.


  • 30% Course Participation
  • 40% Courseworks
  • 30% Course Project

Teaching Assistant

Lecture Schedule

These dates and topics are tentative.


Assignment 1: Ethics, Computers, and Our lives

Pick a media coverage (e.g., a newspaper or magazine article) of an event that you think is related to both computer science and ethics. Write a minimum 1,000 words essay to describe what the ethical issue is, how it is related to computer science, and what your opinion is. Include a link to the article you chose: it can be in either Korean or English (if you really have to choose something in other language, please contact me and explain why).

Due on 7th September before the class begins. Submit a PDF via KLMS (Assignment 1).

Assignment 2: Questions about AI Democratisation

Read the following article: AI Democratization in the Era of GPT-3r. Near the end, the article raises five questions. Write a minimum 500 words essay which discusses and tries to answer at least one of these questions.

Due on 28th September before the class begins. Submit a PDF via KLMS (Assignment 2).

Assignment 3: Autonomous Driving

There seem to be two major, polarised opinions about autonomous driving. Some claim that autonomous driving technology is not fully ready yet but corporates are being pushy because of the expected profit (e.g., no human driver cost). Others claim that autonomous driving vehicles will be much safer than human drivers even with the current or near-future technology, so we should adopt them as fast as we can. Read the following article, and describe what your thoughts are between these two argument: Collision course: why are cars killing more and more pedestrians?. Write it up as a minimum 500 word essay. Your essay should explicitly state your view.

Due on 19th October before the class begins. Submit a PDF via KLMS (Assignment 3).

Assignment 4: Thoughts on Gig Economy

Write a 500~1,000 words essay detailing your thoughts about gig economy. Technology has contributed a lot to enable this new form of work. Some people actively argue that it is the inevitable future of jobs (e.g. The online jobs revolution: Freelance is future of work). Others think it is closer to exploitation and needs to be resisted (e.g. Strike 2.0: how gig economy workers are using tech to fight back). Where do you stand? How can technology help make it fairer and more just?

Due on 9th November before the class begins. Submit a PDF via KLMS (Assignment 4).

Project Aim

The aim of the term project is to put the practical knowledge obtained during the course to an actual use. Any project topic is acceptable, as long as it directly touches on the theme of ethics.

  • You can develop an app (e.g., Ethical Decision Making AppStore, Google Play).
  • You can write tools/frameworks that promote/implement certain ethical issues (e.g., secure deep learning using homomorphic encryption) and evaluate it empirically.
  • You can design a human experiment about a topic related to ethics (e.g., something akin to The Moral Machine).

Choices are endless, but it has to involve some technical depths. There will be an opportunity to present the initial ideas and get feedback (Project sales pitch sessions).

Each team is supposed to prepare and upload three videos.

  • Project pitch: 5 minute video explaining what your project is. Upload by 16th September.
  • Project milestone: 5 minute video reporting the progress and the stutus of the project. Upload by 26th October.
  • Project final presentation: 5~10 minute video that contains the final presentation. Upload by 9th December.

The submission of course project is by the end of 18th December 2020. Every individual should submit the following through KLMS:

  • Group report: this should be a detailed report of your project, in whatever format that you think is the best.
  • A GitHub repo link: As announced at the beginning of the course, you should also submit a GitHub repository that contains everything about your project. The link should be included in the group report.
  • Individual report: this report should contain two parts - first, describe what your own contribution to the project was, and second, evaluate your team members using on a scale of 0 to 10, with a brief justification for your evaluation.

This list is not an obligation, but contains highly recommended readings if you want to widen your views around the issues we will handle throughout the course.