Ethics, Society, & Technology Initiatives

The McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society is home to various programs and initiatives that explore the ethical and social dimensions of technology. We strongly believe that Stanford has a special responsibility to address these topics in light of its role as a seedbed of Silicon Valley, and the Center has long championed inquiry at the intersection of technology and human values. Learn more about our offerings in this arena:

Stanford Embedded Ethics

Embedded Ethics is a collaborative program that embeds the teaching of ethics directly into the core undergraduate courses in Stanford’s computer science curriculum. The program is a partnership between the Center, the Institute for Human-Centered AI (HAI) and the Department of Computer Science. Working in collaboration with CS faculty and graduate students, Embedded Ethics postdoctoral fellows create curricular materials, course assignments, and teach ethics modules across three to six courses per quarter. We are excited to be part of this new approach to technology education at Stanford.

Public Interest Technology Internship Panel + Fair

Tech Ethics & Policy Fellowship

Through the Tech Ethics & Policy Fellows Program, 15 Stanford undergraduate students have the opportunity to engage in the technology field as it intersects with public policy and social impact. The program runs from April to October 2023 and includes a course on ethics, technology, and public policy, as well as a paid internship opportunity at a technology company, civil society organization, or public agency during the summer.

Ethics and Technology Minor

The Ethics and Technology Minor exposes undergraduate students to the moral complexity of new and emerging technological developments in our society, and encourages them to think critically about their impact on our shared future. The minor combines foundational courses in ethical reasoning with a diverse set of interdisciplinary courses from across the university, allowing students significant choice in tailoring the program to suit their interests.

Ethics and Society Review

The Ethics, Society, and Technology (EST) Hub, managed jointly by the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, has helped Stanford launch a new Ethics and Society Review. The ESR requires Stanford researchers seeking funding to consider the negative ethical and societal risks their work poses, come up with methods to lessen those risks, and collaborate with an interdisciplinary faculty panel to ensure that any concerns are addressed.

Event Grants for Undergraduates

The Center offers grants up to $1,000 to undergraduate students or undergraduate student groups with an event idea that encourages ethical reflection. Funding may be used to offset travel costs for guest speakers, cover food expenses, create marketing materials, and to purchase any necessary items unique to the event.

PIT-UN Grant: Tech Ethics Education

The Center’s faculty director Rob Reich and research director Anne Newman, in collaboration with colleagues at Harvard and the New Jersey Institute of Technology, received a Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN) Challenge grant to further support the critical new field of public interest technology. The multi-campus team is pursuing the project, “Evaluating and Assessing Tech Ethics Education,” which is evaluating and assessing public interest technology education and pedagogy at Harvard, Stanford, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Stanford is a member of the partnership of 36 colleges dedicated to building the nascent field of public interest technology through curriculum development, faculty research opportunities, and experiential learning programs. If you want to learn more about the network, please contact Ashlyn Jaeger, ajaeger [at] (ajaeger[at]stanford[dot]edu.)

PIT Student Leadership Committee

Collin Anthony Chen, the Center’s associate director for undergraduate outreach, and Ashlyn Jaeger, the program manager for the Ethics, Society, and Technology Hub, serve as collaborators on the Stanford Public Interest Tech Student Leadership Committee (SLC) led by the Haas Center for Public Service. The purpose of the SLC is to collaborate to make PIT more visible and accessible to students in various fields of study; to enhance PIT student organization recruitment and member engagement; and, to promote and facilitate PIT research, internship, mentorship, and fellowship and career opportunities.

Small Grants for Graduate Students

The Center offers grants up to $1,000 to graduate students or graduate student groups with an idea for a program, event, or learning opportunity related to the ethical dimensions of research, career choices, and professional commitments in their respective fields. Possible expenses include but are not limited to travel costs or fees for guest speakers, food expenses for events, creating marketing materials, or to purchase other materials needed for the program.

image of post it notes that say tech and democracy

Ethics and Technology Talks

The Center periodically hosts a series of lunchtime talks throughout the academic year on topics that relate to the intersection of ethics and technology. Past guest speakers include Professor of Communication Jeff Hancock, founding director of the Stanford Social Media Lab and Jerry Kaplan, Lecturer and Research Affiliate at FSI.

System Error: Where Big Tech Went Wrong and How We Can Reboot

The Center’s faculty director Rob Reich, our advisory board member Mehran Sahami, and political science professor Jeremy Weinstein recently published their new book System Error: Where Big Tech Went Wrong and How We Can Reboot. The book integrates each of the scholars’ unique perspectives – Reich as a philosopher, Sahami as a technologist, and Weinstein as a policy expert and social scientist – to show how we can collectively shape a technological future that supports human flourishing and democratic values.