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The Ethical Dilemmas Today's Programmers Face 183

snydeq (1272828) writes "As software takes over more of our lives, the ethical ramifications of decisions made by programmers only become greater. Unfortunately, the tech world has always been long on power and short on thinking about the long-reaching effects of this power. More troubling: While ethics courses have become a staple of physical-world engineering degrees, they remain a begrudging anomaly in computer science pedagogy. Now that our code is in refrigerators, thermostats, smoke alarms, and more, the wrong moves, a lack of foresight, or downright dubious decision-making can haunt humanity everywhere it goes. Peter Wayner offers a look at just a few of the ethical quandaries confronting developers every day. 'Consider this less of a guidebook for making your decisions and more of a starting point for the kind of ethical contemplation we should be doing as a daily part of our jobs.'"
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The Ethical Dilemmas Today's Programmers Face

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  • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Monday April 21, 2014 @06:32PM (#46810309)

    The fact that this comes up as a question at all is the reason CS needs to follow the footsteps of engineering, medicine, and other "professions". If everyone was registered, bound by a code of ethics and legally required to do so to perform their work employers wouldn't be so quick to think they can replace you with someone willing to follow orders. If the industry had a professional association (I won't call it a union but at times they perform similar functions) to out the employer attempting to force someone to go against a required code of ethics, then this question shouldn't actually come up.

  • Automation (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2014 @06:57PM (#46810507)

    One I have personally grappled with, a script I'm writing will automate 5 peoples jobs away. Chalk it up as inevitable even I know people will lose their low skilled jobs as a direct result? I know it has to happen but that doesn't make me feel good about it. To not write it as best I can would of course be theft from my employer of course though.

  • by canadiannomad ( 1745008 ) on Monday April 21, 2014 @07:46PM (#46810871) Homepage

    How quickly do you think those jobs would be shipped oversees to people who aren't bound by such associations?
    That is the computer programmers' problem.

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Monday April 21, 2014 @08:45PM (#46811383) Journal

    You are putting words into my mouth. Basically I'm saying that IF you want to change behavior on a large scale, you need to find a way to change the reward system(s) on a large scale.

    Nagging people to "be good" and accept the down-sides of honesty for altruistic reasons alone will not work well in the longer run. I'm not saying whether asking them to do such is good or bad, I am only saying it won't work on a large scale. I'm trying to explain it in terms of cause and effect rather than give it a good/bad value judgement.

    X will change Z but Y won't change Z. Whether doing Y is "good" even though it won't change Z is another issue that I didn't address either way.

"Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed." -- Robin, The Boy Wonder