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Courses Taught

The Ethics of Emerging Technologies

PHIL-S-150 |  Harvard Summer School | Summer 2022

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Technology is becoming increasingly embedded in our lives. Algorithms make many decisions for us—from who should see an advertisement to how long someone should spend in jail. Data collection improves many services, but it can also erode privacy. Social media, while connecting some, has polarized others. And more innovation is on the horizon. Now is the time to confront the vital question: how can we live well with emerging technologies? This question provokes another: what does it mean to live well in the first place?  Sometimes, we can use philosophers' past answers to orient ourselves towards a better future. Other times, new technologies force us to reconsider our previously held beliefs. The tools of philosophy, including clear and careful reasoning, can help. We will practice diagnosing the moral and social ramifications of several emerging technologies with the goal of charting a course for the years ahead that preserves technology's promise while avoiding its potential perils.


  1. "Workload aside, this class is fantastic! It will open your eyes, challenge your intellect, and perhaps even recalibrate your moral compass. Highly recommended."


  2. "The readings and lectures that were given greatly helped me to learn more about the different emerging technologies. However, I believe that the professor-led discussions in which we dissected different ethical implications of technology was the most helpful aspect to my learning."

  3. "I have been able to quit social media by taking this course, and I can surely say that taking this course is making me a “freer” person. Strongly recommend."

Ethical Leadership in Computer Science

CSC 391/ HMN 385 |  Wake Forest University | Spring 2021

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Using the ACM Code of ethics as our framework, the course begins with an overview of the forces of technological change and a primer on ethics and leadership. We then pivot to developing four components of ethical leadership. First, students craft a vision that articulates the motivation for their work as computing professionals. Students then reflect upon the wider impact of their work by exploring how computing technologies intersect with core values of truth, justice, autonomy, privacy, security, individual well-being, and the public good. Next, students work to cultivate the virtues of character consonant with the values of computing professionals. Finally, they exercise their voice by giving a public-facing presentation addressing the ethical implications of a computing technology of their choice. 


  1. “I think the most valuable thing I have learned from this course is that ethics is more important in computer science and other disciplines than I thought...I now prioritize making ethical decisions on a daily basis."

  2. I found any exercise we did where we had to define or put into words either a particular value, principle, or reason we were in CS extremely useful. I had never been forced to think about the "why." I simply was in CS because I'm good at it and never thought any further about my choice. It was a small exercise, but it really changed my perspective."

  3. "Learning about how virtues and character are framed within the work of a computer scientist gives a clear example of ways to work and act within the professional field."

The Ethics of Emerging Technologies 

CSC 191/ HMN 385 |  Wake Forest University | Fall 2020

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New technologies are on the horizon and quickly becoming part of our lives.  Now is the time to ask three questions: (1) What are the ethical implications of such technological developments? (2) What can we do to address them? (3) How can we live well with these technologies? To respond to the first question, students develop a toolkit to diagnose the moral and social ramifications of emerging technologies. To address the second question, students compose codes of ethics for the various technologies we discuss. To address the third, students practice character development strategies, including personal reflection and volitional self-habituation, to cultivate specific “technomoral virtues” in themselves, using “technomoral field journals” to chart their progress.


  1. “As someone who hopes to enter the tech field as an entrepreneur and work with disruptive teams, I think this course helped me realize how important it is to consider the motives behind our actions and the ethical implications of new developments. It has also taught me to question some of my unhealthy tech habits and give greater consideration to cultivating virtues.”

  2. “As a senior this has been one of my favorite classes if not favorite class of college. I feel like it is the most applicable and has taught me the most out of any class I have taken before. The workload is reasonable and the material is extremely interesting and engaging.”

  3. “The most valuable skill that I learned during this course was how to pick apart technologies for their ethical implications. From being in this course, I have found myself constantly contemplating how one social media or online software had biases, targeted advertisements, or implicit ways of gathering information about me. I can transfer this skill to make sure that I am not putting myself at risk blindly online."

Future Tense: The Ethics of What Will Be

PHIL 109 | Northwestern University | Spring 2018

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Self-driving cars are hitting the road. AlphaGo recently devised a new strategy to defeat the world’s best (human) Go player. Scientists have begun to edit the DNA of human embryos. China recently implemented a “Social Credit System” to track and broadcast a citizen’s "trustworthiness." Now is the right time to ask two questions: (1) What are the ethical implications of such technological developments? (2) If left unchecked, what kind of future will they produce? To address (1), we will turn to philosophers of the past and present. For at the heart of a question like, “can a machine be human?” is “what does it mean to be human in the first place?” Philosophers have several responses to this question, and we can use their past answers to address the future. To respond to (2), we will compose codes of ethics for the technologies we discuss.


  1. “This has genuinely been the best class I have taken at Northwestern. I learned an incredible amount about AI and other emerging technologies, but more importantly, Prof. Cochran and my classmates pushed me to think deeply about where I stand on a number of extremely difficult ethical debates. This class forced me to legitimize my opinions and convictions past just ‘that's what feels right’ or ‘it’s the way things should be.’ The seminar-style class was super helpful for everyone to hash out differing opinions and tackle tough problems from many sides. I appreciate how willing everyone was to talk about controversial topics and challenge each other on our arguments. By the end of the quarter I certainly changed my perspective on many aspects of life, human nature, and technology. To me, that is invaluable.”

  2. “TAKE THIS CLASS!!! If you have even the slightest interest in ethics, philosophy, or technology, I cannot recommend this course enough. This has hands-down been my favorite class at Northwestern, and I learned so much about tackling problems from an ethical lens. The readings are manageable and interesting, and Cochran does an excellent job facilitating good discussion in class... 80-minute classes are the bane of my existence, but I genuinely was excited to come to this class every single day.”

  3. “The most valuable thing I learned from this class was how relevant human nature (and resolving the question of what makes us human) is to practically every other ethical question. During the whole class, but particularly during our discussions of AI and genetic enhancement, I found myself continuously coming back to the question of what makes us human and how much these technologies threaten that... and is that even a bad thing?”

 Aristotle and His Successors

PHIL/CL 221 | University of Illinois at Chicago | Spring 2018

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Aristotle discusses some of the most fundamental questions in nearly every area of philosophy: What is knowledge, and how does it differ from experience and wisdom? What is truth? What does it mean for something to have a nature?  What is time? What is the structure of reality? What is God? What is the purpose of human life? How do we become good people? How should we organize ourselves into a political community? Our aim in this course is to understand and evaluate Aristotle's answers to these and other questions. By engaging with Aristotle in these ways, we will hopefully develop our own philosophical thinking, too.


  1. "Cochran clearly prepared his materials well. His powerpoints were excellent, and his explanations were incredibly concise and helpful. He has a genuine enthusiasm for the subject matter; great, in-depth feedback on essay assignments. I'm incredibly glad I took Cochran for Aristotle. Probably my best philosophy course so far at UIC."

  2. "Prof. Cochran's style of teaching was extremely beneficial to the way I personally learn. He has the uncanny ability to break down material in the texts, and help the student process and understand what the text is trying to communicate." 

  3. "I cannot say enough good things about this course/instructor. Truly the best instructor I've had in my now five-year college career."

Mentoring & Civic Engagement

Brady Scholars Program in Ethics and Civic Life

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As a Graduate Fellow in Northwestern’s Brady Scholars Program, I was part of a team of educators that sought to combine moral and political philosophy with practical experience to help students improve themselves morally and make a difference in their community. From 2015-2018, I mentored the same small group  of students to help them develop into reflective and ethically-minded citizens. I also co-designed and team-taught their senior seminar, Philosophy and the City, with three other Fellows, and I contributed to the evolution of the program at monthly administrative meetings. I was thrilled to be invited back to mentor another group of senior Brady students for the 2019-2020 academic year.  Find out more about the Program here

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