The goal of this project was two fold: first, explore the best possible ways to teach ethical technology design and product development, and second, explore how those practices are regulated in a legal system with a very limited existing framework for the field. My findings indicate that technology should be taught with ethics in parallel, forcing a recognition for human impact, while still preserving the nature of specialization and working with and learning from individuals across disciplines.
Education is the key to ensuring a viable future for all. Particularly important, though, is the role technology plays in the development and delivery of education. This project employed various educational strategies and explored the relationship and limits of technology-related topics among children. Through volunteering as a Teaching Fellow for the Steminist Movement, Inc., I was fortunate enough to spend my semester preparing a workshop for middle school-aged girls about the mathematics behind Machine Learning and its potential impacts from an humanities standpoint. I was also fortunate enough to complete this process with support from my teaching partner, Ellen Jannereth ‘25, as well as the Head Teaching Fellows from the Cornell chapter of the Steminist Movement, Inc.. Our workshop is scheduled for May 7, 2022.
As an individual, the methodologies behind effective education have always piqued my interest. In the past several years, the question of how technology and its surrounding acadmic fields should be taught has arisen several times. This is because we are, at the current time, seeing the products and evidence of early 21st-century technology education. As is common knowledge, technology and social media have posed a number of different issues that are being evaluated in a legal sense slower than will ever be efffective. In an effort to see how this could potentially be solved, I attemped to find ways in which educational practices could be altered or workshopped in order to begin a mentality of preventing these legal nightmares (for which there is no framework in the U.S. legal system, at the federal level) where everything begins: education.
Creating the DLI Club among an undergraduate population is a still-developing attempt of establishing a space and a norm for placing questions about how technology will shape the future of all aspects of life and what society’s role is in upholding ethical standards. For example, one question that might be posed among our group could be related to how nanotechnology could eventually prevent all memory-loss illnesses. What are the ethical implications of such scientific power?
On the other hand, in order to ask these questions in a meaningful way prior to a piece of technology’s release and venture into the public space, technologists need to be educated to do so. In my mind, there was no better way to accomplish this than by teaching younger groups. In making any concept digestible for a younger audience, one must incorporate the key aspects of their ideas and build for the inclusivity of different skill and interest levels. Teaching the basics of data analysis allows these younger students to apply the learning process to other aspects of their lives and academic pursuits.
Project Construction and Methodology
This project was designed for execution in two main parts. First, establish an organization here at the Ithaca campus that was dedicated to encouraging undergraduate students to answer the most difficult questions technology has posed to the human race. Second, to explore the correlation and possibilities of how technology education can be improved to solve the issues of tomorrow, today.
The Cornell DLI CLub
Through regular meetings and seminars, participants in Cornell’s DLI Club will in the future experience quality and discussion and debate regarding the ethics of technology in all aspects of life. Together with our mentor/advisor, Michael Byrne, we have arranged for DLI fellows to communicate regularly with our members, granting them access to a wealth of knowledge and expertise. Future trips to the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island are in order, as well. This unique connection between two campuses will allow the flow of ideas to be increasingly plentiful, as we work together to solve these difficult questions and problems.
A Bit of Tech, A Byte of Ethics
This workshop was created in collaboration with Ellen Jannereth to be presented to middle school-aged girls to teach them about the ways in which we as scientists and artists can bring data to life to tell a story. A story, which, always has consequences and impacts on others. Our presentation encourages attendees to think critically about how their technology education will contribute to the future product development and, as we have seen, the ethics of such products, as well. This presentation aims to teach students the basics of machine learning--the process, mentality, and how it mirrors everyday learning. It also aims to accomplish a parallel education strategy in which students immediately reflect upon the power they have just by typing out a few lines of code, and why they should keep the inevitable consequences at the forefront of their development process. This is done through a series of age-appropriate analogies, examples, and activities, as can be seen in the photos below. Additionally, participants have access to the data analysis that is available on the monitor, that is an example of the process described in the presentation using everyone’s favorite building bricks: Legos!
To conclude and look forward, I plan to consolidate these endeavors to a thesis or review of some kind, with a focus on how the legal frameworks of these technologies will impact education. I am also particularly interested in looking at how the law will eventually have to answer philosophical questions regarding technology’s impacts.
Works used to create this project:
Koenig, T. H., and Rustard, M. L. (2015). Global Information Technologies: Ethics and the Law. West Acaemic Publishing.
Llerena, P. and Matt, M. (2005). Innovation Policy in a Knowledge-Based Economy, Theory and Practice. Springer.
Marsland, S. (2009). Machine Learning: An Algorithmic Perspective. CRC Press.
Mitchell, T. M. (2013). Machine Learning (2013 Indian Edition). McGraw Hill Education.
While these are not formal citations, I would like to take the opportunity to give a heartfelt thank you to my teaching partner, Ellen Jannereth, and those at The Steminist Movement, Inc. for their hard work and assistance with this project. In particular, I would like to thank Anabella Maria Galang ‘23, Hathaway Heart ‘25, and Antonia Pellegrini ‘23. I would also like to thank my fellow Milstein scholars Geoffrey Brann ‘23 and Hal Reed ‘23 for their collaboration in the establishment of our undergraduate Cornell DLI Club, right here in Ithaca! Thank you to all of the staff of the Milstein Program, and to all of the Milstein scholars.