I’ve always wondered about the ethical issues that surround coding. With the ability to write codes to do anything that the user wants, is extremely freighting. It would be my worst nightmare if the code I wrote ended up killing someone. This nightmare became a reality for former code writer Bill Sourour. In his article “The code I’m still ashamed of”, he mentions that the code he wrote ended up killing a young woman. He wasn’t directly connected to her death, but wrote the code that recommend a pharmaceutical drug for her to take. This eventually led to her depression and ultimately her suicide. Sourour stated that, “I didn’t think much of it at the time. I had a job to do, and I did it”. Let’s be honest, I don’t think that many people under the same exact circumstances would have done any differently. I believe that most people wouldn’t see the repercussions that their code has on reality, and when they do, it’s too late.
Although Bill wrote code in an unethical manner, I do believe he is doing everything in his power to make this right. By writing this article he is making the public aware that unethical programming is being done, as well as warning future programmers to be aware of the code they write. I fully believe that Bill didn’t realize he was doing anything wrong, that is until the day the young women died.
I do find it quite alarming that Bill’s project manager caught the unethical issue, and did nothing about it. It’s almost like she wanted to say something about the code but was to worried about making money instead. This raises the question, how often does this happen? How often do companies just look the other way whenever ethical issues arise? This type of ethical issue must happen every day within companies. I just find it hard to believe that people see through an ethical dilemma and choose to be straight up, unethical. Their only worried about profits, they could care less about the well-being of anybody, anything to make a profit. I hope people can see the bigger picture and know the world relies on using good ethics to function properly. Ethics needs to be the foundation of every business.
That’s why I believe it’s very important to have these courses in school, to take a step back and analyze any ethical issues that follow an action. Before taking this class, I most likely would have fallen in the same boat as the author, writing code, then finding out later the repercussions of my actions. However, becoming aware of Bill’s situation, it becomes clear that a lot more thought needs to be going into what possible repercussions could happen. By addressing these issues now, we will minimize the mistakes we have in the future. Writing code needs to be taken seriously and cannot be used to manipulate or hurt anyone. Thoroughly asses all possible outcomes before making the decision to release it to the public.