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Why would someone assume that the programmer was to blame? The programmer just does what the managers tell him to do. Why should safety or security be about blaming the low man on the totem pole? It's totally ridiculous when you read accounts like that of the NASA engineer. https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2012/02/06/146490064...



Where did someone assume that the programmer was to blame? How do you find out if the High On Totem Pole Man is to blame if you can't depose the Low On Totem Pole Man? You can't. You are forced to take the High On Totem Pole Man's word for it.


> Where did someone assume that the programmer was to blame?

I agree higher-ups bear the brunt of responsibility, but the title of this post currently says "the programmer behind the THERAC-25 Fiasco was never found"


The man over others is the responsible person. If you don't have this, you have no reasonable reason to be incorporated.


If your doctor harms you, you don't sue his boss for malpractice, do you?


But a doctor is not tolled how to perform an operation. Whereas a developer in most all cases is. Just like in the emissions scandal of VW.


If a doctor is told to do something they know will harm a patient, they have to refuse or they are guilty of malpractice.

Engineers at VW were found guilty:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/volkswagen-engineer-sentenced-f...


One of the reasons I think the title Software Engineer should be protected as a professional designation (P.Eng) is to remove arguments like yours. If that lone developer were a real Software Engineer then he would be absolutely be guilty of malpractice. An Engineer can't escape culpability because they were just following orders.


There's no law surrounding software engineer though, so we have no power over their own work. In civil engineering, if someone else takes your plan and still use them even though you still haven't signed them, they are the one responsible. You can do that in software engineering.


> There's no law surrounding software engineer though

There actually probably is a law where you live, but in almost all jurisdictions I don't think it's enforced. Parts of Canada were trying to protect the title Software Engineer but I think even they've given up now. It's unfortunately because now the title doesn't really mean anything.


> There actually probably is a law where you live, but in almost all jurisdictions I don't think it's enforced.

I'm from Quebec, there's no laws that surround specifically software engineer. There's some for engineers in general, but nothing surrounding software development. The title truly doesn't means anything for us as long as no laws are passed, which is why I don't pay for it either.


Actually Quebec is one place where the regulating body has been most successful controlling the use of Engineer as a title (and that isn't saying much).

https://www.canadianconsultingengineer.com/engineering/quebe...

I think Microsoft won on appeal, but I can't find anything on that right now.


> Actually Quebec is one place where the regulating body has been most successful controlling the use of Engineer as a title (and that isn't saying much).

I hate repeating myself, but here again: there's no laws that surround specifically software engineer.

I'm not arguing they doesn't have good laws around the engineer title, I even mention that I can't use the title of engineer because I don't pay for it. What I'm arguing is that there's no laws that surround specifically software engineer.

That title is meaningless and doesn't give us any power over our own works. It doesn't protect our works, thus it doesn't allow us to takes responsibility over it. In the case of the Therac 25, the software was done for the previous hardware and reused over the newer one. Even if the software engineer was against doing that, there's nothing in his power to stop that. I don't know if the electrical engineer has more power and could have done it in the Therac 25 situation, but as far as I know, only civil engineers require signature over their works to proceed.


How is it malpractice for a single programmer/software engineer when a critical part of the code should have code reviews, software design in advance of creation of code which is approved by management? Not to mention thousands of tests with radiation detectors. How can you possibly miss so many safety gates without management being in the wrong?


One of the reasons I dislike the term "software engineer" is because programmers hate to take responsibility. A professional would be willing to sign their name for the work or they wouldn't do it at all.


Of course management could be negligent and I never said otherwise. That still doesn't relieve any Professional Engineer of their obligations and responsibilities.

In this case the author of the software was almost certainly not a P.Eng. (and thus shouldn't be called a software engineer IMHO) and couldn't be found guilty of malpractice.




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