5 Subjects Every Computer Science Student Should Learn

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5. Computer History and Ethics

Something I heard at the Turing 50th Anniversary celebration last summer has stuck with me: Computing is not neutral. It can be used for good or evil. It can be used to help people and it can be used to manipulate and harm them.

For several decades now, we have been making computing advances for the sake of computing, because what we can make computers do is cool, because the challenge of the next thing is too alluring to pass up, because there is money to be made if we can do “X.”

Just because we can do something with computing, however, doesn’t mean we should. Computing power is so great that we need policies to regulate and manage it, in order to protect and benefit people.

It’s important for students of computing to understand its history and to take courses grounded in ethics so they can make responsible decisions and guide others. They should know computing’s historical villains and heroes, its inventors and detractors, and how it has been used to benefit and hurt people. The old saw applies here: If we do not learn our history, we are doomed to repeat it.

Even in a crowded curriculum, we must ensure students are gaining the skills and knowledge they need to become technology innovators, business leaders and positive contributors to society in the coming decades. This list is only a starting point.

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