Thoughts from a "lean Mate" meeting in Dortmund:

The question was "Do we (software developers) need professional ethics?"

  • factual support for discussions with collegues, e.g. regarding the justifiability of certain actions
  • knowledge base and key insights for work related decisions
  • provide a pool of experience to everyone that finds his or her way into the profession
    aims to counterbalance the profit-oriented messages and incentives with insights that usually develop over time
  • legal form
    • at first non-binding; no legal consequences; iterate on the idea and see where it goes
    • at one point it might be an option to do something that is simliar to what already exists for doctors and accountants
  • insincere attitudes are not only found at VW but in the (car) industry as a whole
  • a related topic: software licenses that forbid e.g. military use
  • make transparent what companies, that students like to work at (Google, Amazon, Facebook, and alike), actually do, and what
    • company goals
    • strategies they use to achieve their goals
    • effects their actions have on our daily lifes and society as a whole
  • make something like "information technology and society" a compulsory subject in computer science studies
    • discuss typical problem cases and how to handle them responsibly
    • see also "professional ethics" lectures
  • Joseph Weizenbaum on assuming responsibility
    • assuming final responsibility for what can be done with one's work
    • "a woman will be raped this night ... and if I don't do it, somebody else will"
      ... as a response to "It does not matter if I don't do that dirty work, because somebody else will do it anyway. Therefore it is okay for me to do it."
  • how society adapts to the digital transformation
    • "arbeitsfrei statt arbeitslos", i.e. "holidays not unemployment"
    • see also the book written by Constanze Kurz and Frank Rieger with the same name
  • From every type of work, that influences society and is important to oneself, usually follows political interest/ commitment, since one's creation can always be abused.
  • Take up the idea, carry it further, and continuously update it.
    • e.g. via open discussions regarding the question "Do we need professional ethics?" ... just like this evening in the context of "lean Mate"

related material

next steps

  • How do we want to approach this broad topic?
    • look at other crafts
    • look what other people allready did regarding sw-dev ethics
    • look into philosphy (with the help of educated friends)
  • How should we document and share our thoughts---among us and with others?


random thoughts

  • I guess that almost everybody thinks of themself as a generally good person and therefore justifies "bad" actions with good intentions and good/ important purposes. It may even be so, that those with the best intentions are the most relentless/ ruthless, because they "know" they are doing the right thing.

notes on the Turing Oath

  • 2.2. (security) "with the intent to cause harm" needs to apply to all of the items before. Security researchers can develop exploits, but not in order to cause harm.
  • Which of the rules would have prevented Dieselgate?
  • I'm missing something like "I swear to use my craft for the betterment of society and humanity as a whole"