CS050 -- Information & Computation: History & Ethics
Fall, 2008
(last updated 10/24/2008)

Questions generated in class (10/24/2008). There are some real gems among these. Check out what these students are asking!

Wayne Iba,
office: new Math and Computer Science Building,
phone: 565-6799
Office hours: see my main teaching page
Reading materials: 
Computer Ethics, (3rd edition) by Deborah G. Johnson. Prentice Hall  (2000). ISBN: 0130836990 [required]
The Universal History of Computing: from the Abacus to the Quantum Computer, by Georges Ifrah. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (2001). ISBN: 0471441473 [required]
Copyright in Historical Perspective, by Lyman Ray Patterson. Vanderbilt University Press. (1968). ISBN: 0826513735 [required]
Other selected readings provided by instructor.
Time and place: Mon., Wed. & Fri., 8:00-9:05, Bauder Hall 101.


For the class schedule, see our Eureka page.

Current Westmont students have grown up around computers and the Internet. As such, they do not remember and tend not to understand the revolution that has taken place over the last 50 years (and continues to take place).  But the roots of the information revolution run much deeper than the last 50 or even 100 years. As information technologies have been introduced over the last tens of thousands of years(!), humanity has manipulated the world using these technologies and has itself been changed as a result.

In this course, we will consider seek philosophical perspectives on information and computation technologies, focus on the changes or adaptations that humanity has embraced over this time.  The course has been approved to satisfy Westmont's GE requirement, Philosophical Reflections on Truth and Value. We will particularly address the ethical considerations embedded in various information technologies. To accomplish this, we will review ethical theories that have been proposed by philosophers and then consider how these respective theories apply to issues raised by technology. That is, we will be examining the historical evolution of information technology from a perspective of ethics. Or in other words, we will look at information and computation in historical and ethical perspectives. In addition, we will look at the metaphysics of information and computation, in turn leading us to epistemological concerns with the interaction between minds and information.

In addition to the content described above, a significant objective of this course is to develop students' skills in the areas of critical reading, question asking, writing, conversation and debate. While not strictly a "freshman seminar," the class should help build general scholastic skills that will support students' success in college. We intend for this course to provide a foundation from which students can critically evaluate the informational and computational knowledge and skills they learn in computer science major. We suggest the class be taken during the first two years of study so that it can serve as the opening bookend, which is closed with the senior seminar (CS195).