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> Great, these who want to build these things will simply hire people who don't subscribe to this oath ...

How many doctors are willing to give up their title to do unethical stuff?

An ethical code will change people's perception, and that's a big thing. It will morph the perception of Google and Facebook from cool tech companies into dark places where no decent people want to work; unless of course these companies are willing to change. And there will be a huge effect on politics, other businesses, and media.

Um, how are they supposed to make money if they don't track you to a certain extent? Do they have flaws? Yes -- it's not funny what kind of things you can target for based AdWords, their internal staff probably aren't creative enough to think up ways in which their tools can be used to inflict misery. Software engineers aren't soldiers, doctors, or civil servants what kind of ethical code do you expect? How will people be held accountable to it? What will happen to these who make transgressions?

And how are cigarette companies going to make money if they are hindered in addicting you and giving you cancer? Legally of course.

Software engineers are surrogates for ALL jobs because software is used everywhere. When we serve medicine, we should be obliged to take the Hippocratic oath. When we serve the military or intel agencies (with a security clearance), we ARE obliged to take an formal oath of secrecy. IMHO, many other S/W roles bear no less responsibility.

I think it's time that we software infrastructuralists take our role behind the scenes as seriously as those on the front lines do.

Really? As a former smoker I don't place cigarettes and software in even remotely the same category. Ok -- question. How will this be enforced? Legal/Medical/Eng have licenses to practice you can lose these licenses. I don't need anybody's approval to write code, all the tools are available for free. You are naive if you think some feel good words on paper can make this work without some force backing these words.

Let's say you're a programmer working for a tobacco company. Or for an alcohol distillery making only the most down-market 'ripple' products, inevitably consumed only by destitute inebriates dwelling in the dungeons of life. Do you really imagine that you bear no responsibility for the impact of your work when you enable the perpetuation of pain?

I've worked for several past employers whom I now disrespect (and whose leadership since earned them this disrepute), so this issue isn't merely hypothetical for me.

The principal question isn't about policing and punishment. It's about civic duty as an enlightened human being. Each of us either takes responsibility for our actions and does no harm, or we willingly do. On our part, that necessitates continuous diligence taking an interest in how the products of our work affects others.

Software has become an inescapable part of our society's technical and social infrastructure. Like scientists and engineers, S/W pros bear responsibility for how our work is used. And how it's abused. That's all I'm saying. Each of us has to work out the details for ourself, but dismissing them outright shirks that duty, and I believe, diminishes our humanity bit by bit.

People have the mistaken belief that the ideal possible world is actually one with no pain. The best solution possible with finite resources is maybe somewhere short of the the best you imagine -- to live is to suffer as they say.

You had shitty leaders I'm sorry about that, but maybe they were trying their best in a difficult situation -- it's probably not all fun choices. Or maybe they were just assholes -- updated.

I do not disagree with you on the "why" -- as Grove said I want to know how? You assume that each person can be trusted to figure this out for themselves -- maybe some people can be, but if you look at the entire population you will end with a distribution where more and more force will need to be used to coerce the fringe elements into compliance -- these fringes can destabilize the entire equilibrium since it might snow ball out of control as more and more people pile on seeing the benefits that it brings.

> but maybe they were trying their best in a difficult situation

Then let them prove it! That's one thing an ethical code will ensure.

There is a asymmetry of how they percieve the world and you do -- the difference in available information might not be able to let them make choices that would satisfy your standards.

That's what communication is for. It also happens to be a function of an ethical code.

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