$30 off During Our Annual Pro Sale. View Details »

Andreessen's Corollary: Ethical Dilemmas in Software Engineering

Bryan Cantrill
May 10, 2019
10

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
Tweet

Transcript

  1. Andreessen’s Corollary Ethical Dilemmas in Software Engineering CTO bryan@joyent.com Bryan

    Cantrill @bcantrill
  2. Ethics in software engineering, ca. 1997

  3. Ethics in software engineering, ca. 1997 — Gottbaum et al.,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Software Engineering Code of Ethics” (1997)
  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…
  12. 1999: Napster

  13. 2003: Friendster

  14. 2003: Friendster Source: Gary Rivlin, “Wallflower at the Web Party”

    (New York Times, October 15th, 2006)
  15. 2011: Andreessen’s prophesy — Marc Andreessen, “Why Software Is Eating

    The World” (2011)
  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
  17. 2012: Facebook emotional manipulation Source: Kashmir Hill, “Facebook Manipulated 689,003

    Users’ Emotions for Science” (Forbes, June 28th, 2014)
  18. 2012: Facebook emotional manipulation Source: Kramer et al., “Experimental evidence

    of massive scale emotional contagion through social networks”
  19. 2013: Zenefits “Macro” Source: Findings of fact in SEC Administrative

    Proceedings against Parker Conrad et al. (file 3-18263)
  20. 2014: Uber Greyball Source: Greyball Audit Report, Portland Bureau of

    Transportation, April, 2017
  21. 2014: Uber Greyball Source: letter from Uber to Portland City

    Attorney, as quoted in Greyball Audit Report, Portland Bureau of Transportation, April, 2017
  22. 2015: Google Photos mis-labelling Source: https://twitter.com/jackyalcine/status/615329515909156865

  23. 2016: First Tesla “Autopilot” fatality Source: National Transportation Safety Board

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

    Highway Accident Report (NTSB/HAR-17/02)
  25. 2017: Facebook and Anti-Rohingya violence Source: Report of the independent

    international fact-finding mission on Myanmar, United Nations Human Rights Council
  26. 2017: Facebook and Anti-Rohingya violence

  27. 2018: Joyent provides infrastructure to Gab

  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
  29. Source: Boeing Company, April 17th 2019 MCAS update 2019: 737

    MAX MCAS and JT610/ET302 crashes
  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?
  31. Post-Andreessen ethics

  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
  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!
  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!