2018-10-06 Programming Ethics

The feeling when you remember what was deemed paranoid fantasy in computing a decade ago and then thinking of today’s supply chain attacks, bot nets, great firewalls, xkeyscore and all that… and as a programmer I am disappointed in the kind of people that decide to work on these things.


Now, you might argue that some programmers don’t have a choice. Capitalism and all that. This might be true in general, for poor people, but in the context of programmers, the ones I know do have the freedom to decide whom to work for and what to work on.

But even if you do know people in such circumstances – I’m not sure how to respond to this. I can go commit the No True Scotsman fallacy, or go back and qualify my statements with “most” and “the ones I know” and “it seems to me” – but at the same time I don’t know enough these people and their situations so let me put it this way: I hope they get back their agency as quickly as possible and that they will exercise their freedom as soon as they can.

And at the same time I will be thinking of Kant and the categorical imperative and where as I know that his statements are harsh and contested, he did argue that you should not lie, no matter what, because that is the foundation of our society. No excuses. And thus while I acknowledge the need to make compromises, these don’t exempt people from moral judgement. That’s why these are compromises and not good deeds.



See also: 2020-05-09 Ethics and licensing.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-09 12:29 UTC

Please make sure you contribute only your own work, or work licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Note: in order to facilitate peer review and fight vandalism, we will store your IP number for a number of days. See Privacy Policy for more information. See Info for text formatting rules. You can edit the comment page if you need to fix typos. You can subscribe to new comments by email without leaving a comment.

To save this page you must answer this question:

Please say HELLO.