Psych 4320: Ethics and Psychology of Technology

Seminar description

New technologies are changing our world at a rapid pace. In many cases, the society does not fully understand the impact of technology and is not prepared for the speed of the change that is occurring. This seminar will explore a few of these new technologies and investigate their effects on the users and on the society at large. The topics that will be explored include face recognition, virtual reality, violence in media, general AI, and the technological singularity. We will look at the ways in which these technologies affect our lives, with a focus on education, entertainment, employment, politics, and the future of humanity.

The image on the right is from the Netflix TV series Black Mirror, which deals with many of the topics that are of interest to us in this seminar.

  1. To understand the impact of current technologies and their ethical implications.
  2. To evaluate the future of these technologies and discuss how we might prepare for them.
  3. To explore the potential repercussions of AI

Instructors: David Field and Shimon Edelman

Time:W 2:00 — 4:25pm

Place: 205 Uris Hall

Jump to:

Requirements for credit:

  1. Attend and contribute to the discussion during the weekly meetings.

    Whether or not you're presenting in a given week, please come prepared with questions or comments regarding the readings.

  2. Participate in three separate weekly presentations. Each presentation/discussion will be led by a team of three or four students. The presenters should be ready for clarification questions and interruptions at any time during the presentation.

    IMPORTANT: please choose your three topics and co-presenters ASAP and no later than the second Monday of the semester (January 29). To sign up for one of the presentation slots, follow this link.

    For an academic paper, a typical presentation should include

    The presenting teams are required to meet with the instructors ahead of their presentation, to address any questions and coordinate the details.
  3. On weeks you're not presenting, please submit (via the Blackboard discussion page) a brief opinion / question on the readings. Give it an informative title, including week number.
  4. For the last meeting, please prepare (and send to the instructors) a written summary of your impressions and lessons from the seminar, in a short-essay form (~ 1000 words).
Final grade components:
Presentations: 69%
Participation in the discussions: 21%
Final essay: 10%

Inclusion and diversity:

[The remarks in this section, which are specific to this course, are intended to supplement the official Cornell statement on diversity and inclusion, which covers dimensions such as gender, race, socio-economic background, etc., and which can be found here.]

Unlike in a large-enrollment lecture-based course, in which some students may choose, and succeed, to remain virtually anonymous, in a small-class seminar setting you are required to speak in front of the class (when presenting) and are expected to contribute to the discussion on other occasions. Because your informed opinion on every aspect of the material is unique and valuable, we shall strive to facilitate the conversation so as to make all voices heard. In this, we'll be counting on your help, and on the help of your classmates.

Even matters of "consensus" are not always easy to talk about, as the rare dissenters who dare voice their opposition know full well; how then should we approach potentially controversial topics? With care and compassion, diligence, openness, and daring: care for our shared humanity; diligence with regard to the relevant knowledge and findings; openness to informed dissent; and daring to venture into uncharted territory, as befits good education.

If at any point during the semester (no matter whether in class or after hours) you feel that you need to talk about any of these things, please let us know immediately --- doing so will be our top priority.

Students with Disabilities: please give us your Student Disability Services (SDS) accommodation letter early in the semester so that we have adequate time to arrange your approved academic modifications. Meeting with us during our office hours will help ensure confidentiality. If you need an immediate accommodation for equal access, please speak with us after class or send an email message to us and/or SDS at If the need arises for additional accommodations during the semester, please contact SDS.

Last modified: Wed Jan 24 2018 at 13:02:58 EST