The list of questions for the term paper assignment follows. You may choose any of the questions which interests you. Choose only one question. Follow the directions given on the syllabus page with respect to page layout and citations.

Reminder: You may use any type of reference you like, with the one constraint that you may only use one internet reference; all other references must be from a book, journal, or other scholarly academic reference.

UPDATED 2012-10-29
Alternative Project
: If you so desire, you may do a programming project rather than the term paper. This needs to be some sort of non-trivial programming task, such as a web page with both CSS and JavaScript to create some sort of dynamic content. You will need to submit a write-up of your idea well in advance of the due date, and get buy-in (and possibly advice) from your professor prior to beginning this project. The idea of "non-trivial" is partially subjective, and is based on the evaluation of your programming homework as a demonstration of your capabilities so far. If you try to do too much your likelihood of success is reduced, so be aware that your professor will try to work with you to get the appropriate level of difficulty.

  1. (Chapter 1, question 5): To what extent should a government regulate computer technology and its applications? Consider for example, the issues mentioned in questions 1-3 and 1-4. What justifies governmental regulation?
  2. (Chapter 1, question 10): As our society becomes more automated, it becomes easier for governments to monitor their citizens' activities. Is that good or bad?
  3. (Chapter 1, question 14): Has society become too dependent on computer applications for commerce, communications, or social interactions? For example, what would be the consequences of a long-term interruption in Internet and/or cellular telephone service?
  4. (Chapter 2, question 5): ): Suppose a manufacturer produces a computer chip and later discovers a flaw in its design. Suppose further that the manufacturer corrects the flaw in future production but decides to keep the original flaw a secret and does not recall the chips already shipped, reasoning that none of the chips already in use are being used in an application in which the flaw will have consequences. Is anyone hurt by the manufacturer's decision? Is the manufacturer's decision justified if no one is hurt and the decision keeps the manufacturer from losing money and possibly having to lay off employees?
  5. (Chapter 3, question 3): If a flaw in an operating system's security allows a malicious programmer to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data, to what extent should the developer of the operating system be held responsible?
  6. (Chapter 3, question 5): In Walden, Henry David Thoreau argues that we have become tools of our tools; that is, instead of benefitting from the tools that we have, we spend our time obtaining and maintaining our tools. To what extent is this true with regard to computing? For example, if you own a personal computer, how much time do you spend earning the money to pay for it, learning how to use its operating system, learning how to use its utility and application software, maintaining it, and downloading upgrades to its software in comparison to the amount of time you spend benefitting from it? When you use it, is your time well spent? Are you more socially active with or without a personal computer?
  7. (Chapter 4, question 3): To what extent should a government control its citizens' access to the Internet (or any international network)? What about issues that involve national security? What are some security issues that might occur?
  8. (Chapter 5, question 2): Suppose you have an idea and develop it into a product that many people can use. Moreover it has required a year of work and an investment of $50,000 to develop your idea into a form that is useful to the general public. In its final form, however, the product can be used by most people without buying anything from you. What right do you have for compensation? Is it ethical to pirate computer software? What about music and motion pictures?
  9. (Chapter 5, question 6): Is it ethical to design an algorithm for performing an illegal act? Does it matter whether the algorithm is ever executed? Should the person who creates such an algorithm have ownership rights to that algorithm? If so, what should those rights be? Should algorithm ownership rights be dependent on the purpose of the algorithm? Is it ethical to advertise and circulate techniques for breaking security? Does it matter what is being broken into?
  10. (Chapter 5, question 8): Educational software is now being marketed for children in the 18 months or younger age group. Proponents argue that such software provides sights and sounds that would otherwise not be available to many children. Opponents argue that it is a poor substitute for personal parent/child interaction. What is your opinion? Should you take any action based on your opinion without knowing more about the software? If so, what action?
  11. (Chapter 8, question 5): It is easy to transfer data and programs from one computer to another. Thus it is easy to transfer knowledge held by one machine to many machines. In contrast, it sometimes takes a long time for a human to transfer knowledge to another human. For example, it takes time for a human to teach another human a new language. What implications could this contrast in knowledge transfer rate have, if the capabilities of machines begin to challenge the capabilities of humans?
  12. (Chapter 8, question 7): Has the popularization of computer technology produced new ethical issues or simply provided a new context in which previous ethical theories are applicable?
  13. (Chapter 9, question 10): To what extent are you exposed to the possibility of identity theft? What steps can you take to minimize that exposure? How could you be damaged if you were the victim of identity theft? Should you be liable when identity theft occurs?
  14. (Chapter 12, question 5): Today there are websites that provide road maps of most cities. These sites assist in finding particular addresses and provide zooming capabilities for viewing the layout of small neighborhoods. Starting with this reality, consider the following fictitious sequence. Suppose these map sites were enhanced with satellite photographs with similar zooming capabilities. Suppose these zooming capabilities were increased to give a more detailed image of individual buildings and the surrounding landscape. Suppose these images were enhanced to include real-time video. Suppose these video images were enhanced with infrared technology. At this point others could watch you inside your own home 24 hours a day. At what point in this progression were your privacy rights first violated? At what point in this progression do you think we moved beyond the capabilities of current spy-satellite technology? To what degree is this scenario fictitious?
  15. (Chapter 12, question 8): Some years ago the philosopher John Dewey (1859-1952) introduced the term "responsible technology." Give some examples of what you would consider to be "responsible technology." Based on your examples, formulate your own definition of "responsible technology." Has society practiced "responsible technology" over the last 100 years? Should actions be taken to ensure that it does? If so, what actions? If not, why?

Copyright (c) 2005-2011, B.J. Johnson and Loyola Marymount University
Last updated Thursday, 2011-06-14, 00:04:00
Readers should infer that the use of feminine pronouns applies to both genders.