Richard G. Epstein, Westchester University of Pennsylvania
Mike Melamed, CWRU 2000
The Case of the Killer Robot is a detailed scenario that combines elements of software engineering and computer ethics.
The scenario consists of fictitious articles that touch on specific issues in software engineering and computer ethics. The articles discuss programs such as programmer psychology, team dynamics, user interfaces, software process models, software testing, the nature of requirements, software theft, and privacy. A major consideration is "when is the software good enough?"
The articles in the scenario begin with the indictment for manslaughter of a programmer who wrote faulty code that caused the death of a robot operator. Slowly, over the course of many articles, students are introduced to factors within the software company that also contributed to the accident. They are shown software development as a social process. It is hoped that students will begin to realize the complexity of the task of building real-world software and to see some of the ethical issues intertwined in that complexity.
This scenario is about 70 pages long and includes some tongue-in-cheek humor.
For permission see author information.
The Case of the Killer Robot consists of seven newspaper articles, one journal article and one magazine interview. This scenario is intended to raise issues of computer ethics and software engineering.
The people and institutions involved in this scenario are entirely fictitious (except for references to Carnegie Mellon and Purdue universities and to the venerable computer scientists Ben Shneiderman and Jim Foley). Silicon Valley was chosen as the location for the accident because it is an icon of high technology. All of the persons and institutions named in Silicon Valley are purely fictitious.