6.S057 Computer Systems and Society


Undergraduate Level - II
Units: 3-0-9
Prereqs: 6.033
Instructor:  Katrina LaCurts (lacurts@mit.edu)
Schedule:  TR11-12:30, room 66-144
More information: https://visor.mit.edu/6.s057/
Explores the impact of computer systems on individual humans, society, and the environment. Examines large- and small-scale power structures that stem from technical design decisions, the consequences of those structures on people and the environment, and how they can limit or provide access to certain technologies. Students learn to assess technical design decisions within an ethical framework and consider the impact of their decisions on non-users. Case studies of working systems and readings from the current literature provide comparisons and contrasts. Possible topics include include the implications of hierarchical designs (e.g., DNS) for scale; how layered models influence what parts of a network have the power to take certain actions; the environmental impact of proof-of-work-based systems such as Bitcoin; etc.