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Hacking the STEM Syllabus

The Internet's dark side is more evident than ever, as "Big Tech" platforms give users tools to manipulate opinion, spew hate, and incite violence. To restore the Internet’s positive potential, we must ensure that those who drive its progress learn to assess the social, economic, and political consequences of their work.

SAN FRANCISCO – After a prolonged honeymoon for the digital economy, the dark side of the Internet, social media, and “Big Tech” has become increasingly apparent in recent years. Online, what is good for business is not necessarily good for individuals or societies. Big Tech platforms make it easy to manipulate opinion, spew hate, and incite violence.

We once naively believed that mass access to the World Wide Web would inevitably democratize information; today, we worry about the emergence of an “addiction economy” that is bad for everyone. What can be done to support more humane, ethical, and effective technology?

One important way to address this problem in a systemic way is by reforming education in the so-called STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering, and math. Policymakers worldwide are already focusing on increasing the number of STEM graduates and the diversity of STEM students. But we should also expand the scope of STEM education, to ensure that students learn to evaluate and respond to the social, economic, and political consequences of their work.

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