Social Implications of Computing

CS 195, Spring 2018

Course description and policies

CS 195 is a discussion-intensive course about the social implications of computing. The purpose of this course is to help computer science students make informed and thoughtful choices about their careers, participation in society, and future development activities. Readings and lecture topics are drawn from a range of fields that together seek to describe our contemporary global society: sociology, philosophy, economics, public policy, etc.

Weekly Schedule

Class on Monday 4pm-5:30pm. Finish the weekly survey by Monday 2pm so that we know what to discuss. The survey will be released Friday night and emailed to the class via Piazza. Do the readings before class!


Lecture topics will not be determined only by the wisdom of your instructor. Instead, you will collectively choose your own adventure through the material. A brief survey about each upcoming topic will be emailed to the class each week (probably Friday night).

Before class begins, please complete the survey, in which you can vote on the issues or questions most interesting to you. The results of these surveys will guide our discussions.


In addition, you will write three short essays (500-1000 words) that contain your original thoughts about issues from the class. Students will choose their own essay topics, and your work will be reviewed by your peers. Essay assignments will appear in the reading list and be announced in class.

This semester, you will have the option of posting and reacting to essays publicly. Those who do so will be eligible for prizes.


The course is graded P/NP. The reason for that policy is to ensure that you can feel free to express opinions different from those of the instructors, both in class meetings and in written work.

In order to receive a passing grade in CS 195, you must earn at least 80 points.

The expected way to pass the course is as follows:

  • Complete at least 10 or more surveys (10 points).
  • Attend 10 or more lectures.
  • Submit 3 essays and receive a passing peer review grade on all of them.
  • Provide peer reviews for 9 essays.
  • Participate in a small-group discussion section (10 points).

However, to give you a small degree of flexibility, you may design your own way to reach 80 points according to the following point values:

  • Surveys, 1 point each, for a max of 10 points
  • Lecture attendance, 2 points each, for a max of 20 points
  • Writing essays, 10 points each, for a max of 30 points
  • Peer grading, 3 points each, for a max of 29 points

In the event that you do not earn the required number of points, we will provide an opportunity to make up extra work, though you should not count on this.