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Cal Poly's Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group focuses on the implications and impact of emerging sciences and technologies.
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Santa Clara Ethics Professor to Discuss Software, App Design March 5 at Cal Poly

Santa Clara University Philosophy Professor Shannon Vallor will speak on “Ethics for Software/App Design” at 4 p.m. Thursday, March 5, in the Advanced Technology Laboratories (Building 7) at Cal Poly. 

The rise of software apps and other emerging technologies are redefining the way people connect and share experiences and information. More importantly, new technologies are creating new waves of privacy issues and moral questions, among other issues.

Vallor will discuss how in the absence of ethics, app developers suffer blowback from users, media critics, industry leaders and regulators. Vallor points to recent examples such as Facebook’s “Year in Review” app, which celebrates deeply personal and tragic events in users’ lives; Snapchat’s slow response to data security lapses; and Uber’s GodView tool. 

Shannon Vallor
Shannon Vallor

“Because ethics is difficult, today’s app developers must confront trade-offs among competing values, including privacy, security, transparency, control, usability, cost and quality of user experience,” said Patrick Lin, philosophy professor and director of the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at Cal Poly.

Pooling all of these ideas, Vallor will outline the emerging ethical issues in app development and discuss how practical judgment, with the right training, can help developers safely navigate the rocky terrain between ethics and technology.

The talk is organized by the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group, one of the world’s leading research groups in science and technology ethics. The Ethics + Emerging lecture series and research are just some of the many ways Cal Poly is helping prepare students for the wired world.

“Software is a big part of how our world runs, and Cal Poly students are poised to be part of that global evolution,” Lin said. “But it’s not just technical expertise they need; they also need an understanding of the moral and social dimensions of their work, if they’re to make a positive difference. As accreditation agencies push for more ethics in engineering programs, and as more employers recognize that value, we’re helping our students become thoughtful and responsible leaders in technology.” 

Vallor, the chair of Santa Clara’s Philosophy Department, examines the ethical implications of emerging technologies such as social media, robotics and digital surveillance. Her focus is on the impact technology has for the cultivation of virtues, an issue she addresses in her upcoming book, “21st Century Virtue: Cultivating the Technomoral Self.” 

She also serves as vice president and president elect for The Society for Philosophy and Technology (SPT) and as a scholar at Santa Clara’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

Vallor’s talk is free and open to the public. The presentation is sponsored by the colleges of Liberal Arts and Engineering; the College of Liberal Arts’ Lottery Speakers Fund; the Cal Poly Cybersecurity Center; the Science, Technology and Society (STS) Minor Program; and the Philosophy Department.

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