Computing That Serves

Will My Code Damage Your Brain?


Thursday, February 19, 2015 - 11:00am


Luther Tychonievich


Cory Barker

Colloquium presented by Luther Tychonievich, Lecturer at the University of Virginia
Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 11:00AM
Location: 1170 TMCB


When a human and a computer program need to think together, it is the human who adapts to the limitations of the computer and (unless the human is the program's creator) not the other way around.  Current learning theories suggest that once a mind learns to think in one way, it takes great effort for it to think in a different way.  Combining these two observations suggests an ethical question that is rarely discussed in conversations of computational ethics: if I give you a tool that rewards poor-quality thought and inhibits good practice, am I ethically liable for your resulting inability to engage in good thought?
In this talk we'll review cognitive load theory (the computer architecture of the mind) and what that theory suggests about human thought and passive learning.  We'll then explore the ethical implications of writing software tools, with case studies taken from family history, CS education, software engineering, and social interaction.  Along the way we'll explore why there are fewer Hispanic females than Asian males in CS, why so many students struggle to write good parallel code, why I'd never tell a genealogist to keep their research on a computer, and how computing professionals can mitigate or solve all of those issues.


I'm a full-time lecturer in the Computer Science Department at the University of Virginia. I earned a Ph.D. degree in computer science from the University of Virginia, M.S. and B.S. degrees in computer science from Brigham Young University, and A.A. and A.S. degrees from Lakeland Community College.
My research has three main thrusts. In computer science education I research pedagogical practices and course designs that attract more and more diverse students into computing. As part of FHISO and rootsdev I research data models for facilitating large-scale cooperative family history research. I am also a theoretician and algorithmist, having developed algorithms and written proofs on several topics within computing.
I enjoy office politics (the influencing of the local polity), I love to walk (alas, shoes last only briefly as a consequence). I'm keen on board games (RoboRally is the best, with many close seconds) and table-top roleplaying games (homebrew by preference, D&D by ease of finding players). I'm an active member and lay minister in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I enjoy writing (fiction, nonfiction, and poetry). I enjoy reading (including some books I repeatedly reread: Winnie-the-Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner, The Hobbit, Leave it to Psmith, the Holy Bible, and the Book of Mormon).