Simple Case that Discusses the Issue of Job Loss Resulting from the
Implementation of a Computer System
||Undergraduate students in CS, CIS, or SE
||Part of one class period
|Background needed to complete the assignment
||Weiss, Eric A., Ed., "Scenario 4.3," "Self-Assessment Procedure IX:
A Self-Assessment Procedure Dealing with ethics in Computing," Communications
of the ACM, 25:3 (March 1982), p. 186.
Several codes of ethics from computer/engineering societies.
A major reason that management support the use of technology is to
improve productivity, which in many instances mean the elimination (or
radical redesign) of jobs. In such a project, the designer of
the new system can feel torn between their obligation to their employer
to meet the specifications of the project and their obligations to fellow
co-workers (and possibly friends) and to the needs of society. Problems
can arise from projects that either will result in reduced employment or
will result in the need for workers with vastly different skill sets than
that possessed by the present work force.
Goals for the activity:
This exercise is to present to the students a realistic depiction of
the dilemma and to cause them to consider the issues involved.
Knowledge / skills / attitudes to be developed (behavioral objectives):
After completion of this exercise students should be able to
- identify the stakeholders, actors, and the actors' responsibilities
- discuss the issues involved in projects that result in the elimination
- Distribute copies of the above referenced scenario to the students
- Either in or out of class, have the students discuss the case and the issues
involved, identifying the stakeholders, the actors (those making choices),
and the responsibilities that each actor has to each stakeholder.
For each responsibility identified, state whether the action taken was
ethical, including which ethical principles form the codes were used in
making the determination
- Each group reports to the entire class the responsibilities identified
and their conclusions reached on each responsibility
- Instructor records publicly the list of responsibilities identified for
each actor and each group's conclusion for each responsibility identified
- Instructor leads a discussion that first examines whether each actor had
the responsibilities assigned
- Instructor then leads a discussion that examines the rationale for the
conclusions about the actions taken for each responsibility recognized
by a significant portion of the class
- (Optional) Instructor leads a discussion in which the members of the class
are asked to state how they would act if they were the designer of the
system. This question could also be given as a writing assignment
for the next class.
- Instead of discussing the scenario in groups, have the students first read
the materials in class and prepare answers to the questions in Step 2 above
- Divide the class into pairs and using the think/pair/share method, instruct
each pair to agree on a common set of conclusions for the pair
- The instructor calls on each pair sequentially to give one responsibility
not previously identified and their conclusions reached on each responsibility
or a different conclusion reached for previously identified responsibility;
instructor records publicly the lists of responsibilities identified and
the various conclusion reached about each responsibility
- Procedure as in Option 1 for Steps 5 - 7
Possible methods include:
- Include completion of the group or pair work as part of classroom participation.
- Include questions on the issues raised on an exam.
In many such discussions, a major point of controversy is the impact
that technology has had on the overall employment situation. In this
case, one of the additional exercises in this section can be used to clarify
the issues involved and to critically exam the various points of view on
Author contact information:
Dept. of Computer Studies
Belmont Abbey College
Page maintained by: