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Andreessen's Corollary: Ethical Dilemmas in Software Engineering

Bryan Cantrill
May 10, 2019
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Andreessen's Corollary: Ethical Dilemmas in Software Engineering

Talk given at #CraftConf in Budapest in 2019. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wtvQZijPzg

Bryan Cantrill

May 10, 2019
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Transcript

  1. Andreessen’s Corollary
    Ethical Dilemmas in Software Engineering
    CTO
    [email protected]
    Bryan Cantrill
    @bcantrill

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  2. Ethics in software engineering, ca. 1997

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  3. Ethics in software engineering, ca. 1997
    — Gottbaum et al., “Software Engineering Code of Ethics” (1997)

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  4. Ethics in software engineering, ca. 1997
    — Gottbaum et al., “Software Engineering Code of Ethics” (1997)

    View full-size slide

  5. Ethics in software engineering, ca. 1997
    — Gottbaum et al., “Software Engineering Code of Ethics” (1997)

    View full-size slide

  6. Ethics in software engineering, ca. 1997
    — Gottbaum et al., “Software Engineering Code of Ethics” (1997)

    View full-size slide

  7. Ethics in software engineering, ca. 1997
    — Gottbaum et al., “Software Engineering Code of Ethics” (1997)

    View full-size slide

  8. Ethics in software engineering, ca. 1997
    — Gottbaum et al., “Software Engineering Code of Ethics” (1997)

    View full-size slide

  9. Ethics in software engineering, ca. 1997
    — Gottbaum et al., “Software Engineering Code of Ethics” (1997)

    View full-size slide

  10. Ethics in software engineering, ca. 1997
    — Gottbaum et al., “Software Engineering Code of Ethics” (1997)

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  11. Ethics in software engineering, ca. 1997
    • There is northing wrong per se with the 1990s code of software
    ethics — it just represents a precambrian era of software
    • Notably, the guiding context surrounding the code of ethics itself
    remains timeless…
    • …but the code itself is quaint, and serves primarily to remind
    how much software has changed in the last two decades
    • With the rise of ubiquitous internet in the late 1990s came the
    first real foreshocks of the ethical dilemmas to come…

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  12. 1999: Napster

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  13. 2003: Friendster

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  14. 2003: Friendster
    Source: Gary Rivlin, “Wallflower at the Web Party” (New York Times, October 15th, 2006)

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  15. 2011: Andreessen’s prophesy
    — Marc Andreessen, “Why Software Is Eating The World” (2011)

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  16. Software after Andreessen
    • As software has indeed come into broader domains, the
    internet-era challenges have multiplied and compounded — and
    with increasingly serious ramifications
    • There have been many clear ethical transgressions, common to
    any era with a frenzied rush for mammon…
    • …but much more common are true ethical dilemmas, laden
    with complexity and ambiguity
    • These are not entirely unrelated! Those least burdened by
    ethics seem most likely to find themselves on the ethical
    frontier, facing the greatest dilemmas

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  17. 2012: Facebook emotional manipulation
    Source: Kashmir Hill, “Facebook Manipulated 689,003 Users’ Emotions for Science” (Forbes, June 28th, 2014)

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  18. 2012: Facebook emotional manipulation
    Source: Kramer et al., “Experimental evidence of massive scale emotional contagion through social networks”

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  19. 2013: Zenefits “Macro”
    Source: Findings of fact in SEC Administrative Proceedings against Parker Conrad et al. (file 3-18263)

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  20. 2014: Uber Greyball
    Source: Greyball Audit Report, Portland Bureau of Transportation, April, 2017

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  21. 2014: Uber Greyball
    Source: letter from Uber to Portland City Attorney, as quoted in Greyball Audit Report, Portland Bureau of Transportation, April, 2017

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  22. 2015: Google Photos mis-labelling
    Source: https://twitter.com/jackyalcine/status/615329515909156865

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  23. 2016: First Tesla “Autopilot” fatality
    Source: National Transportation Safety Board Highway Accident Report (NTSB/HAR-17/02)

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  24. 2016: First Tesla “Autopilot” fatality
    Source: National Transportation Safety Board Highway Accident Report (NTSB/HAR-17/02)

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  25. 2017: Facebook and Anti-Rohingya violence
    Source: Report of the independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar, United Nations Human Rights Council

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  26. 2017: Facebook and Anti-Rohingya violence

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  27. 2018: Joyent provides infrastructure to Gab

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  28. 2019: 737 MAX MCAS and JT610/ET302 crashes
    Source: Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau Preliminary Report, Ethiopian Airlines Group, B737-8 ET-AVJ, March 10, 2019

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  29. Source: Boeing Company, April 17th 2019 MCAS update
    2019: 737 MAX MCAS and JT610/ET302 crashes

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  30. Software in the post-Andreessen world
    • This has been but a tiny sampling of the ethical dilemmas faced
    by software in the post-Andreessen age
    • It is clear that what is right for software is not necessarily right
    for society: we must address our ethical dilemmas directly!
    • Software is on the cusp of yet broader societal impact — and at
    a time when our society is increasingly divided and fractured
    • We have a greater burden to society than ever before —
    how can we process these dilemmas?

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  31. Post-Andreessen ethics

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  32. Software in the post-Andreessen world
    • Finished in the summer of 2018, the ACM’s new Code of Ethics
    and Professional Conduct has arrived at the right time
    • A radical overhaul of the 1990s-era code of ethics, it is much
    more principles based, e.g.:
    • Contribute to society and to human well-being
    • Avoid harm
    • Be honest and trustworthy
    • Entire code is at https://ethics.acm.org

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  33. Beyond a Code of Ethics
    • The ACM has gone beyond merely providing a Code of Ethics
    by kicking off its Integrity Project
    • Includes case studies and an “Ask an Ethicist” feature
    • The ACM’s efforts show that to face ethical dilemmas, we need
    to be able to ask tough questions
    • These will often not have crisp answers — but the resulting
    discussion is most likely to yield behavior consistent with the
    code of ethics
    • Organizations must initiate and support this discussion!

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  34. Andreessen’s Corollary
    • Organizations that support frank discussion fo ethical dilemmas
    will enjoy ethical differentiation
    • They will attract like-minded individuals who can help
    perpetuate a culture of consideration of ethical consequences
    • We must recognize that as software’s footprint continues to
    grow, out ethical dilemmas will only expand
    • We must brace ourselves for future dilemmas
    • Ethical quandary is Andreessen’s corollary — and it is our
    collective responsibility to address It directly!

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