Work for a boring company that provides a core service and does not ruffle feathers or cause trouble to society. I write Angular/Python apps for a company that sells payroll products. Its not the sexiest job in the world but the company needs tech people, it operates pretty ethically, I am paid reasonably well, and the team does not cause unnecessary stress day to day.
Government tech jobs are probably similar depending on department. You probably won't be contributing to the downfall of society in many govt branches but instead providing a reasonable service to society. The pay is probably less though.
The thing that that depressed me the most is how little the population cares about improving the country. They are checked out and don't see all the problems that they can fix. So it has led me to also question, why I am wasting my time instead of working on myself and what I can do to better my own self. But I guess that's a separate discussion.
Time before using computers for business was terrible with much less transparency (no Googling prices, etc). Paperwork got lost all of the time. Companies could easily bury things, etc.
The one that wasn't an NGO has been by far the worst one. Worse salary, worse perks, worse problems I've solved, and while I didn't do any work I considered to be unethical, I'd definitely refuse some of the work my colleagues did.
I kinda wish more techies would look at the NGOs as a viable alternative to the corporate world and do some work that's actually meaningful to the society. Granted, the supply of jobs in the tech field isn't big enough for everyone to switch, but the jobs are there if you're willing to search for them.
Over all, I feel like EDRi (https://edri.org/) is doing exceptional work over here in Europe. Think of EFF, but instead of being one organisation on a federal level, it's made of a bunch of smaller organisations that work in different nations on intertwining issues, be it net neutrality, reverse engineering Big Tech's algorithms, or helping the citizens exercise their GDPR rights. It's a small front against the Big Tech, and they need as much help as they can get in order to put up a fight.
I don't know. It's not black and white. Social media apps aren't creating poisonous ideas like the flat earth, antimask, or anti-vax movements, but they're certainly essential to their spread. They have also had a positive impact such as during the Arab spring a couple years back. Would measles have made a comeback in the US without Facebook? Probably not? Does that mean that Facebook is responsible for the resurgence of it? At least partially yes in my view. Did Facebook sway the elections in 2016? Probably. But so do journalists. What if Facebook swayed elections in a direction that aligns more with my views? Would I be as uncomfortable? I certainly don't have enough information to say "facebook good, facebook bad", but with the limited information I'm comfortable saying that Facebook is dangerous. My perception is that the negative impact of Facebook outweighs the positive; I can't prove it, but it's spooking me enough that I won't work for them. Maybe it's because I don't have kids.
I got into programming because I loved the machines and the abstractions, but I'm finding myself helpless because I can't make myself contribute to the goals of the people who want to employ me.
> nobody thought they were going to CS school
> to enable the exploitation of less lucky others.
According to it, the full version isn't going to be released because it contains privately identifiable information.
1. Ancient History - Historically politics was a hobby of the elite. You had to go out of your way, sometimes into the cold to attend party meetings. The discussions were academic and professional. People who were involved in politics had their lives very much together, on both sides of the isle.
2. Social Media was invented. I had the opportunity to work with a very fantastic and kind person. My role in the organization was software engineer. This person's role was warehouse operations. Because of Social media this person, who would otherwise never be politically engaged, rocks social media all day long. With the advent of Facebook on mobile, this person tweets political memes all day long. This person spends Xor time on reddit, and "chan" sites. This person now represents the main stream. This person is awesome, but shouldn't be shaping policy.
3. Solutions. I have a number of ideas. I think we should move away from ideas such as ballot initiatives and direct democracy and embrace the fact we are a Republic. We need professionals to determine policy not the twitter mob. Another solution I would seriously implement is a rule. No politics on social media. If its political, flag it, delete it. This would take care of twitters toxicity problem, and facebooks foreign interference problems.
I'm spitballing ideas here, but I am not sure Democracy can survive first contact with social media. It's a mess. people are angry. If you work at one of these big tech companies, I'd love to know your take!
Congress people and senators are professional policy makers. The problem is that if they acted solely in the best interest of the nation then they wouldn't get reelected. So what, is not having elections a better solution? Should there be no parties so that actual conversations happen and require a consensus? Should terms be limited? No clue. I'm not sure we as a society can fix ourselves without a major kick in the butt.
Wasn't that a new 'social media' of the time?
Even targeted advertising, if done right is very good for both buyer and seller.
Bad part is data collection and predatory targeting, like for (rather mild) example “easy money passive FBA business” targeting aspiring enterpreners.
I know that's tough but it's a matter of ethics. And frankly, Facebook is an amazing technical institution, and I would love to work with the majority of them based on technical chops alone.
I've put my money where my mouth is on this sort of thing in the past - I passed on an Uber employee who worked on the "god mode" feature and had no opinions on it making the news or its being abused other than "I was just building the feature". It made the news for abusiveness, at least have a little remorse!
So Facebook employees, please understand, if I ever meet you in a technical interview, there will be a five minute section for a hard "liberal arts" question politely lobbed your way :)
> ... unwilling to represent the failings your company has done to society, then I need to hear a justification before moving further in the conversation.
I'm going to replace 'company' with 'organization'.
Do you harbor similar opinions about people who have previously or currently work for a federal government? State government?
You mention 'tech company': do you have such opinions about people who have worked for, for example, IBM?
I look forward to your response, and I promise I'm not trying to trap or bait you in any way. Thanks.
I do harbor similar opinions about people who have previously or currently worked for the government, or any organization that behaves in a way inconsistent with my ethical framework. I strive to see things as close to the shade of gray that they really are and act accordingly.
I more or less believe in free will and thus the responsibility for one's actions is one's own. The world is complicated and actions must be viewed in context. My opinion of someone who works for Google as a lead on their ad-tech will be worse than someone who works for Google X or someone who's on their first job out of college. My opinion will improve drastically if they leave Google on ethical grounds, or show remorse for their time there as an ex-Googler.
I think that on the surface level there are things big tech does are positive for society but the second and third order effects are frightening and negative in ways that are hard to bound. There's no way I can see to disentangle that from your personal responsibility for your actions that serve to advance their aims.
I have worked for companies that do things I disagree with. I've thought about it and come to terms with it, even as I have expressed my disagreements when I believed it made sense to do so. I'd be happy to hire someone in a similar situation, because it shows they at least are aware that their work has ethical considerations.
It really comes down to choices and consent for me. If you're in the military, that may have been the option for an 18 year old and certainly I wasn't thinking about ethics when I was 18. But if you're able to work at an organization with a high bar such as Facebook, surely you have other options - unless you're a new grad - the stark reality is that when you get out of college, you take what you get.
I would definitely be a little tougher on someone who joined Facebook (or the NSA) in the last few years and already had job experience (senior/staff level) versus a Jr engineer or someone who'd been there since before a lot of these issues came to light (although that raises the question: why are yo u still there?)
And, my opinion on Facebook has changed drastically in the past few years.
So anyways, it's really contextual and empathetic. I'm not just trying to "GOTCHA" some guy who joined the military out of high school before fully appreciating the ramifications of their actions (I wouldn't have!).
But if you have 10 years of experience in software and you go work for the NSA... well, I have some questions.
I know there's a lot of gaps, and I'm ashamed to admit I don't really have a strong framework - this is a personal failing, and something I've really been thinking about more recently.
edit: i got downvoted. I'd like to know what I can improve on, please reply, thanks. I'm trying to be better!
However, with FB it is less obvious due to their fancy talk about community and shit. I understand your outrage about facebook, but I don't understand you can give a pass to people who essentially say: "I gonna kill people, it is okay, they are probably bad people anyway".
Not really. Its stated job is to keep other people from killing you.
It's unfortunate and unjust that in many cases this devolves into pre-emptive killing. But for most sovereign nations, there's really no alternative to having a military.
Yes. And I have never been faced with someone with a long military career. If they were interviewing straight out of a long career, it would definitely fit into the "senior person" context as mentioned.
It's a tough question, for sure, but I don't think I would be able to shy away from it. I guess we'll find out if I'm ever in that position... I should probably prepare for if that ever happens.
My stance on this has been getting firmer and firmer the more senior I get. I honestly wonder if I'd have the presence or guts required to ask that hard of a question.
Specifically, how do you feel about other government positions, besides the military and intelligence?
Reading your response, I'm getting the sense that this line of conversation is more about senior people with recent employment, which is sensible.
My main point is that big organizations....all of them....do a lot of different things and have a lot of different impacts. And many big organizations have extremely large impacts.
Some of those will be good, and some of them will be bad. But one way or another, both the 'good' and 'bad' impacts will both be very large.
Case in point: the US Government is an enormous and old organization. Nobody can rationally deny that it has done an enormous amount of both good and bad, and it's a matter of opinion and discussion as to which pile is larger.
Another example: IBM is a tech company that's old and has had a huge impact for a long time, both good and bad.
Before I get to Facebook, I'll note that it's widely held that all creatures, and humans especially, tend remember and weigh the bad quite a bit more than the good.
Facebook has created an enormous amount of impact over a pretty short period of time, nobody disagrees with that.
I strongly suspect this won't be a popular opinion, but I believe that Facebook has created, on the whole, more good impact than bad.
Before the reader reacts too negatively to that statement, please know that I personally consider technology/communication technology/especially social media technology to be among the top two or three most likely existential threats to human civilization.
I personally believe that Facebook was the first to take the inevitable next steps toward the now obviously dangerous territory we find ourselves in.
So, that's a tiny portion of my personal context.
I admit that your opinions made me somewhat uncomfortable, though I do understand where you're coming from.
I also admire your (somewhat risky!) transparency here.
Ah well, that's the nature of an open forum such as this.
I also think even highly ethical people tend to be overly optimistic about how much change they can bring about within an organization. Changing the ethics of a massive organization isn't nearly as easy as overhauling operations or implementing a new tech stack - and neither of those things are easy either!
Tim Bray comes to mind. I have no doubt that quitting was the very last arrow in his quiver to bring meaningful change at the company. He's a very intelligent guy, highly respected in his field, and has an entire career to prove he's a capable and creative problem solver. Imagine all of the other things he tried to do before he quit? And he made a noisy exit but I'm sure there are others who haven't and felt the same way. Even at facebook, too.
At the very least, asking a softball question will help filter out someone I might not want to personally work with.
I actually think interviewing really sucks, because you spend an hour getting to know someone who you'll potentially spend 40 hours a week for years with? That's a whole separate topic, though.
I didn't downvote you but I suspect it's because you compared working in the military favorably to working for FB.
And if a resume came on my desk with something like what was posed, I would have to pause, and think. And think. And think.
Some of the posts in here actually worry me though. There's a real failing of ethical concerns and more importantly, ethical mentorship in our field. I'm a result of that. I'm not trying to "gotcha" FAANG employees or vets or anything.
A military is, for better or worse, a necessary requirement for maintaining a society that won’t get taken advantage of by others. While it’s easy to point to “job is to kill people”, that’s a simplistic reduction and many who are in the military will not do so. As much as one can be all Kum-ba-ya and imagine a Utopia in which armed forces are not necessary, life doesn’t really work that way.
Facebook is a form of publicly consumed entertainment, but unchecked they will happily fuck with people’s minds for more clicks/revenue, and they absolutely should be held to a higher standard than they are.
They two aren’t even in the same league when it comes to ethics.
First, the military is not a socialist organization, because the workers (soldiers) do not own the means of production. They don't have a say on where they fight and who they fight. The military is an arm of the bourgeoisie and is guided by the whims of those in power, not the people within the rank and file of the military or those who go and die.
Second, Yes, the military provides recruits with opportunities (e.g. postsecondary education, etc). But would they join the military without those incentives? i.e. If everyone had their basic needs met through redistribution of wealth, would they choose to go into the military? It's more like that they join the military, because it's one of the few ways of getting out of their economic situation. It's a form of coercion. It's the carrot that gets them to join the military institution.
> Contribute to society and to human well-being, acknowledging that all people are stakeholders in computing.
> Avoid harm.
The document is a lot bigger than the Hippocratic Oath, so includes a lot of points about Professional Responsibilities and Leadership, but at least it's partially aligned with that kind of thinking.
Sure, you "connect" people to friends/family they may not be able to see in person or communicate with regularly. You're also verifiably playing god with information and misinformation, as well as spying on your users, selling their data to other people that want to spy on them, paying employees to view toxic content (which results in PTSD), etc. Is all this worth being able to communicate with people you don't really care about, or that don't really care about you?
I'm not sure either! I'm not an ethics expert. I think the Uber example and the Facebook example are real outliers. They're particularly egregious examples of abuse of people's information (letting people zoom in on people's walks of shame at company parties is definitely bad!).
I would still ask a new grad the question, and maybe I would put more weight on the answer if they had made it to a senior role.
>It just seems wrong to cause trouble to others because they may have had this only chance to join the elite FAANG crowd and now they pay for it because of people with your line of thinking.
I have never worked at FAANG and I don't intend to, to be honest. I did pass on an offer at A, earlier in my career.
>I have even met so many people with years of experience that are on the outside of the FAANG wall looking in with jealousy and longing.
Well, if they ever get in and show up in my interview panel, they should be prepared for a softball ethics question. That seems like a small price to pay, tbh
> That seems like a small price to pay, tbh
I don't think it is the question itself that's the price to pay here. The price to pay here is having to work in a workplace that the imagination usually paints for a company that would think that seriously scoring candidates on their answer to such a question isn't straight up ridiculous.
I.e., it isn't the question itself that would bother me. It is imagining what it would be like to work at a workplace where they ask these questions during interviews. If they ask it during interviews, they probably have discussions on this at the office all the time. While it might be desirable to some, there is not enough money in the world to make me tolerate working around people talking all the time about their ideas of morality and political views at work.
If you can't handle a 5-10 minute question section in which I bring up contemporary criticism about your current employer, in the context of that sensitive information that we handle, then the feeling is mutual.
I wish I could give more information but maybe it's best to keep names out considering the context ;)
And it would REALLY be shitty if some hack blogger posted the context-destroying "FooCo refusing to hire Facebook employees because of ethics concern"
If you truly want fundamental ethical change, how about empowering the working class, so that we have a platform and the power to speak without reprisals? Then it goes beyond facebook, we can fight back against all types of abuses, ideological ones and the ones in the office. Can you imagine the kind of power we can have if we, in unison, shut down all our development work to fight for societal change? The government and corporations will bow.
Start a tech union, and let's see how far you get. That's a better answer than putting the onus on a single developer whose life is literally dependent on the company's continued employment.
Just don't be surprised that the company will do everything to shut you down, hard. And then you'll realize how ridiculous the evaluation you wrote above is.
(2) There are more nuanced definitions of "working class" which might be useful in this context. As much as I applaud class solidarity, there are ways in which software engineers currently are not subject to the same issues as other people who sell their labor to capital in order to make a living.
(3) Empowering the working class has not been a particularly successful strategy when done at scale, from a historical perspective. It seems more effective to focus on empowering people you know, the place you live, organizations that have something to do with you. "The working class" is, at this point in US history, far too amorphous and ill-defined a group, riven by division sown by capital in its own interest, to really be the focus of much empowerment.
A "Company" is the sum of the collective actions of its employees, board, and management. If that collective does things which are unethical—for example supporting repressive regimes—then that is unethical.
While some companies are borderline, there is zero doubt in my mind that Facebook is unethical.
They will be fine.
I'm sure that your employer loves your personal feelings interfering with hiring talent.
"Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don't have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it's true. If you hire somebody without integrity, you really want them to be dumb and lazy."
When I brought up my thoughts around the Uber candidate, I was supported by the people on the panel. One of them confessed that he had regretted not asking the question. It's part of the reason that I love working here.
If a team here built something like "god-mode" and it made the news for those levels of abuse... well, it would very possibly tank the company. It definitely hurt Uber. So it's not just personal, it's business!
companies don’t just hire for talent. they hire for character too.
i don’t think companies expect hiring managers to hire people based on skill alone and put aside any character concerns they have about the hire.
Where have we heard that one before?
I've personally been disqualified because I've worked at a legal, but "vice" based company - I've seen others not hired because their previous company was too "legacy", even though they did very similar work.
It's not necessarily right, but companies use the signals available for them - even if they're not 100% agreeable to everyone.
At that point, I was conducting dozens of interviews a year, and I think that sort of question came up... maybe three times? One of those people was from a medical company with a very large and very embarrassing contemporary incident, and the interviewee and I talked about development process problems. In fact, they admitted, it was part of the reason they left! We hired them and I enjoyed working with him.
And fine, but then when that horrible thing makes the news and their answer is "i don't care, i was just building the feature", I take that to be an extremely unsatisfactory answer.
And if they work at Facebook with those kind of unsatisfactory answers, they are probably very qualified for a lot of positions, and I don't think they'll be hurting for job offers elsewhere.
Doctors are often required to attest their ethics before doing a job.
Maybe the difference is that (computer-based) engineers are expected to do unethical work in some situations and for some employers, and there is an unwritten code that they can pass the buck and won't be penalised just for "doing their jobs".
I, personally, would have done the latter in that scenario, but only if that entry was on their resume and they were proud of it. So no, I wouldn't report someone who personally confessed that many years ago they were dealing or doing sex work of the illegal kind. Though I heavily doubt that someone would be dumb enough to put it on their resume and advertise.