CS 4873C Spring'21


Computing, Society, & Professionalism


Schedule and Readings


Term Paper

View the Site on GitHub blairmacintyre/cs4873-s21

Homework 3: Applying Different Ethical Frameworks to a Dilemma

Due Date: Wed Feb 24 at 5pm
Format: Approximately 4 pages, 12 pt font, double spaced
Grading criteria: Completeness
Insight into each ethical theory
Individual ethical analysis

Consider this ethical dilemma:

You have been offered a lucrative coding job writing software for a virtual reality (VR) exercise company, Get Hopin’. GH makes an exercise program where realistic avatars of trainers lead you through different programs in fanciful computer generated worlds. Their software can generate avatars with a wide variety of physical appearance and clothing, and a wide range of synthetic worlds (sci-fi, fantasy, cartoon, etc.)

GH has asked you to write code that uses the VR device’s eye-tracker. Research has shown that players will involuntarily spend more time looking at visuals they find attractive or interesting, making it possible to use eye-tracking to build very accurate profiles of user interests and preferences (from story genres and sexual attraction, to political affiliations and brand preferences, depending on the sort of objects shown).

In their configuration and setup screens, players are in a virtual room that can be decorated with any number of ever-changing pictures of physically different trainer avatars, game worlds, and decorations. By leveraging your companies past experience with VR eye tracking software, and carefully selecting images and objects, you believe you can create a very detailed profile of player interests and preferences.

GH plans to use these detailed user-preference profiles to automatically tailor the trainers appearance and clothing, along genres and contents of the training worlds, to match the preferences of the player. They expect people will spend more time in the system if it is populated with people, objects, and scenes that they prefer. Players will not be informed that this is being done, as GH doesn’t want to “ruin the magic” of the experience.

Like many software companies, GH uses a click-through Terms of Service (TOS) that allows them to use data collected by the game to “improve the service”, transfer data to a third party in the event of a sale of the company, and create new businesses from their data. GH representatives have mentioned their interest in licensing this data to social media and advertising companies, and because this is a paid gaming service, unique identifiable information could be associated with each profile.

Do you accept the job?

  1. What would an act-utilitarian analysis suggest you do? Why?
  2. What would a rule-utilitarian analysis suggest you do? Why?
  3. What would a deontological analysis suggest you do? Why? Which formulation of the categorical imperative is easier to use in this situation and why?
  4. What would social contract theory suggest you do? Why?
  5. What would an analysis from virtue ethics suggest you do? Why?
  6. Combine these different perspectives and provide a well-reasoned argument for a course of action.
  7. Comment on noteworthy strengths and weaknesses of the different theories that came up in your analysis. Pick one noteworthy strength of one theory, and one weakness of a theory, and discuss.

Answer each question separately. In each answer, show us that you understand that ethical theory.