To Serve Man, with Software

Jeff Atwood wrote a great post about the ethics of programming and the products we create. It’s a natural question to ponder as we see a handful of tech companies amass unpresendented power. Recent events such as the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal or Ubers various scandals and crashes certainly doesn’t help the common opinion that tech is unambiguously good.

I and Jeff share the wunderful experince of accidentally finding software development to subsequently realise that only imagination is the limit to creation. It’s super empowering, but as should be clear to everyone by now, not everything should be created.

I echo his belief that we should do more to ensure that software has a positive impact – as he’s done with StackOverflow and Discourse.

I also continue to believe, if we start to think more holistically about what our software can do to serve all people, not just ourselves personally (or, even worse, the company we work for) β€” that software can and should be part of the solution. – Jeff Atwood

If you’re interested in examples of how well intentioned tech has unintended negative consequences I would recommend reading “Weapons of Math Destruction” by Cathy O’Neil who also did a Ted talk about it.

P.S. I love this quote from Jeff’s post:

It should be noted that no ethically-trained software engineer would ever consent to write a DestroyBaghdad procedure. Basic professional ethics would instead require him to write a DestroyCity procedure, to which Baghdad could be given as a parameter. – Nathaniel Borenstein