Agile Ethics seeks to teach techno-moral skills through role-plays that simulate the development of products using the tech taught in students' CS classes. The underlying (testable) hypothesis is that Moral awareness begins with foreseeing the sometimes-hidden consequences of any action (Rest, 1986; and others). In the Agile Ethics simulations, some students inhabit roles on an Agile team (engineers, project managers, etc.), while others take on roles in stakeholder groups (corporate board members, tech writers, end users, etc.) to experience ethical dilemmas as they emerge in real tech work. The students make technical and design choices, then discover through successive “sprints” that their choices may violate social norms.
The development of the Agile Ethics simulations began with insights from the literature on organizational psychology. It is rarely the case that employees of a company knowingly choose what’s wrong; they are more often blinded from the consequences of their actions by financial incentives, workplace competition, etc. (See e.g., Max Bazerman and Ann Tenbrunsel, 2012.) The Agile Ethics role-plays mimic the stressful organizational environment. Initial studies of our pilot – performed by our Psychology Department – show a difference between respondents who are given a technomoral scenario that explicitly states ethical concerns and those given scenarios that don’t (yet) mention ethics. Those given morally-labeled cases may develop a false confidence (as measured by two perceived competence metrics) that they are equipped to make moral choices in the future. But when shown morally-unlabeled cases, these same people are no more sensitive to potential dangers than any others. We hypothesize that students must encounter the ethical dangers of tech development themselves, as they slowly unfold throughout the "sprints" in our gamified role-plays.