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Embedded Ethics

A hand placing a bright pink post-it note on a white board with other notes about tech ethics.

The Embedded Ethics program embeds the teaching of ethics directly into the core undergraduate courses in Stanford’s computer science curriculum.  Beginning in fall 2020, the program is a partnership between the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society, the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI (HAI), and the Department of Computer Science (CS). Postdoctoral fellows housed at the Ethics Center collaborate with CS faculty and graduate students to create and teach ethics modules tailored for each course in which the program operates.  

Ethics modules include lectures, homework assignments, and assessments. The ethics topics covered in the modules are tightly integrated with the technical content of each class. This signals to students that recognizing and grappling with ethical issues is central to studying computer science and builds toward the program’s goal of making reflection about the ethical implications of technology a core part of software and product development. This makes exposure to ethics integral to the core CS courses for the thousands of undergraduates who take them each year. 

The faculty leads of the Embedded Ethics program are Rob Reich (Ethics Center, HAI, & Political Science) and Mehran Sahami (CS). The program is directed through the Ethics Center by Anne Newman. The Embedded Ethics fellows are part of the broader cohort of postdoctoral fellows at the Ethics Center. The Embedded Ethics Fellows work in the core CS classes to develop and deliver ethics lectures and to add ethics content to homework assignments and assessments. The program is highly tailored to the technical content of each class so that students encounter ethics in a way that meaningfully connects it to the CS topics at hand. 

Learn more about Embedded Ethics by visiting our March 2023 conference site and the Embedded Ethics postdoctoral fellowship application page, as well as exploring resources at our curricular site.