Plenty Of Guilt To Go Around

Who’s to blame?

I notice how many folks seem to believe geeks are in charge of what software gets written in the world. When software is revealed to be immoral, I notice how reluctant they are to blame folks who are senior executives, boardmembers, or majority shareholders.

The majority of working software developers who are adding code to projects are < 30yo. An actual current programmer is uncommon on the third floor and almost unheard of above that level. I know of no executive for any company larger than 20 employees who is a working geek.

The geeks didn’t set the pricing option for the 737-Max. They didn’t decide to ship the emissions test detection on VWs. They don’t sit at home at night coming up with new ways to charge you more in order to ship you more advertising. They don’t choose what software gets made.

The geeks didn’t decide to provide backend access to your cloud data or communications for internal police. They didn’t decide to allow the Great Internet Wall to be a wall of censorship. They didn’t even decide to invent "promoted" tweets and facebook posts.

People make mistakes of all kinds, including the moral kind. Geeks are people, and so are CEO’s. I am not trying to dodge culpability. What I am trying to do is distribute it properly.

I’m just hoping the next time you discover some great moral failure embedded in a piece of software, your first proposal isn’t an ethics lecture for a bunch of 25-year-old javascript programmers on the ground floor of an otherwise innocent organization.

I hope you extend your culpability rules to cover their bosses, their bosses’ bosses, their CEO, their board, their shareholders, and yourself.

There’s plenty of guilt to go around, you don’t have to let the geeks have it all.

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