It’s never happened to me, to be in a position where I have to decide whether my job is more important than writing a few unethical or immoral lines of code that I have been instructed to do.
I have mainly coded things for projects, on my own, without an authoritative person breathing down my neck telling me what to do and not to do.
Unfortunately, I am certain many software engineers and other technical workers are faced with such a tough decision.
Looking over “The code I am still ashamed of”, by Bill Sourour, I realized that perhaps one day, hopefully not, I will be in the same position as him. I mean it would be great to say my probabilities of being in a similar position are slim to none, but I would probably be lying to myself and lying to oneself is not a very ethical thing to do, which would make this whole blog hypocrisy.
Anyway, Sourour reacted in a very natural way, he followed directions because at the end of the day that is his job. However, my concern is although he felt uneasy about following directions, he did not realize the outcome of what he had done until somebody was dead. But we cannot blame Sourour for being human, because most people don’t realize the delicacy of a situation until someone gets hurt or in this case, dies. But that’s a whole different topic for a whole different day.
I do feel like Sourour could have done more on his part, maybe asked his fellow engineers what they thought, or spoken to his boss if he felt uneasy about the requirements.
But, again, we can’t blame him, he was young, inexperienced, like me.
When we are faced with such a decision, I believe we should put ourselves in the position of the consumer. Remember we are, “one of the last lines of defense against potentially dangerous and unethical practices”, and we should acknowledge that by not just doing our job, but doing it in a way that promotes a GENUINELY well being to everyone.
Of course Bill Sourour is not the only one, more people have revealed the unethical things that they have been asked to do.
A programmer Robert Martin, or Uncle Bob, released a video, “The future of Programming” where he believes that such unethical programs created are the fault of undisciplined programmers. I agree. If self-taught programmers and boot camps focused on also learning and teaching programmers how to handle ethical situations instead of just focusing on “pumping out people who can write code as fast as possible to satisfy a growing and insatiable market for coding skills”, we would not be risking our freedom.
Well as programmers, nobody governs what frameworks, languages, tools, and architecture we want to use, but if more and more programmers build technological stuff that is in anyway illegal or risking a person’s life we are bound to go that direction and end with dictators governing our jobs.
As of now WE run the world. “Other people believe they rule the world but they write down the rules and they hand them to us”, it is our job to be able to say no when we know something is not right. We have the power to control our software and continue to control it.
So just remember, don’t just write code because you are asked to, do it because you know it is genuinely great for EVERYONE.