Sarah Sterz (25) earned her bachelor's degree in computer science, switched to a master's degree in philosophy and is now heading for her doctorate in this discipline. Nikolai Käfer (25) stayed in computer science and is about to take his master's degree. Later on he wants to work for tech companies: "But only if they are aware of their ethical responsibility". Sterz and Käfer have two things in common. They studied computer science at the University of Saarbrücken and they took a course in "Ethics for Nerds". The lectures and associated course work opened up new horizons for both of them. The knowledge they acquired in moral philosophy, assessment of technological innovation, machine ethics and argumentation theory changed their views and brought about a change of awareness that impacted on their self-conception.
'Ethics for Nerds' made me realize just how much power we actually have and the responsibility we should subsequently be aware of
"'Ethics for Nerds' made me realize just how much power we actually have and the responsibility we should subsequently be aware of," says Käfer. And his fellow student says: "It is inacceptable that computer scientists can complete their studies without ever having heard anything about the morality or responsibility." The two voices from Saarbrücken stand for a worldwide trend. In the midst of the gold-digger mood surrounding AI, more and more techies are asking themselves how to face up to the moral issues and how to keep a clear conscience: What attitude should I adopt towards my work and what am I allowed to do? Big Data, algorithms and artificial intelligence blur the boundaries between light and shadow, making any sharp distinction between good and bad almost impossible. Dual use is lurking everywhere, and naivety or lack of knowledge can end in blunder. Take the "racist" soap dispenser, for instance: Developed with white test persons, the sensors failed to react when a person of color tried to use the dispenser.