Hacker News

Ask HN: What are (y)our ethical stances in software?

I believe in and support some fundamental things like open source, decentralization, creative commons, and net neutrality. Sometimes I feel like I fall into some kind of hacker news stereotype and other times I feel like I am an oddball idealist with nobody to relate to. So I would like to ask HN to share your foundational ethical stances of software issues. I'm curious to see how homogeneous we are or if there are distinct groups of thought among us? Do we have some shared vague sense of a "best practice"? Is there an area of study around this that already exists?

15 pointsZaskoda posted a month ago7 Comments
yesenadam said a month ago:

I like the question! Maybe it's too big? (There are no responses yet.) If I asked "What are your ethical stances in life?" ..it's hard to say exactly. But if you asked about, say, the arms industry, animal rights, euthanasia, abortion, pollution, lawyers, bullying, tax rates, lobbyists etc etc, it's easier to say something, talk about relevant factors, and then listen to differing views. And then explore why we hold those, what deeper principles lay underneath.

What are some equivalent specific questions in the software realm about which you think people might have diverging views? (I'm no expert. Perhaps some are around things like...advertising, working for evil-doing employers, monetization, rent-seeking, who ultimately your duty is to - self, family, friends, country, world, god etc.)

codingdave said a month ago:

As others have said, I won't support a company that goes directly against my personal ethics. I also hold to a bare minimum that the product we product has to have a net positive benefit on society. It doesn't need to be world changing, but as a few examples, I'm happy to work in health care and education, but do not work in social media or on advertising or sales-focused apps.

Currently, my SaaS is focused on education, so have one added layer of ethics, which is that our pricing has to save money for the school systems. I'm fine being a for-profit company whose profits come from bringing home a portion of the savings our tools bring to school districts. But I will be out the door if the PTB increase pricing so that our profits take the entire savings and then some, so we start taking dollars away from students.

trumbitta2 said a month ago:

I choose Open Source over anything but my own productivity (and that's why I moved from Linux to Mac 7 years ago after my first 13 years in software development).

I don't work for online gambling / porn / weapons / alcohol / tobacco companies.

I try not to mansplain.

keyle said a month ago:

I'm a contractor (10+ years now) and I will work where the money takes me

I will however:

- never work in weapon systems or targeting systems of any kind, and

- unless I'm strapped for cash, my field of work helps make a positive change, as opposed to getting some rich guy richer.

That's all. Do no evil and try to help a good cause.

dev_north_east said a month ago:

I wouldn't work for a company involved in the deliberate taking of human life.

There's a lot of big gambling companies near me that have me conflicted. I enjoy a flutter and all, but you hear of some people and how they're addicted to it. I dunno, I just stay clear. There's other jobs out there

decasteve said a month ago:

I point people to “Human Values, Ethics, and Design” by Friedman and Kahn, as a starting point for ethical computing or ethical HCI discussions. It had a big impact on me when I first read it and it still shapes my ethical lens many years later.

yesenadam said a month ago:

Download link https://depts.washington.edu/hints/publications/Human_Values...

Ohh.. "hints" is the Human Interaction With Nature and Technological Systems Lab, directed by Kahn. Lots of fascinating-looking papers there