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Well, the reason is that people in general aren't often ethical, when they seek to benefit personally. It's not taught; it's the default setting.

I wish a little philosophy and ethics were part of the curriculum. This would not be to inculcate normative values, but to help eng students clarify what they believe, and what the implications are.

That said, most engineers I've met who work on sketchy stuff are either naive, apathetic, or suffer from massive cognitive dissonance.

The latter will too often regurgitate the self-justifying language of the business people in their companies.

Ever listen to ad tech people spew absurdities about people wanting to be engaged with "their" brands? How about the justifications for massive data collection and analysis - targeted ads are so much better for people. Pfft.

Then there are, say, NSA engineers who convince themselves that what they do is necessary, if illegal. That said, I saw a lot of NSA LinkedIn profiles that swapped out NSA for DoD a few years back.

Company leaders tend to hand employees ideas and the slogans to repeat to themselves and others. The internal spin is huge and insidious.


My undergrad Computer Engineering curriculum as far back as the mid 90’s offered a dedicated “social and ethical issues in computing” course, which included not only ethics but the societal issues around hacking, copyright, automation, robots, etc. Do these courses no longer exist? I think tech professionals ought to agree to Do No Harm and be held accountable when they do. Problem is the vague and debatable definition of “harm”.

Every ABET accredited degree (CS and/or CE) has a minimum requirement for ethics courses. The software industry just doesn't have a minimum requirement for accredited degrees (or any degrees at all, for that matter).

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