The ethics of programming

Today I am not going to talk about any development I am doing or anything related to my activities. I am going to switch to my philosophical side because I really think We, as programmers, usually code things only because We could or We must to and We really need start to think seriously about “what we should do”.

Here in Spain, my country of origin, A yet another outrageous corruption scandal has emerged this week. A brief description of that scandal would be: More than eighty top directives of a bank entity (bailed out by the government later) besides their amazing salaries, received a near magical credit card called humorously black card which gave them an undeclared to the tax office sum of money ready to use at their will. Of course, following our outstanding picaresque tradition most of them spent their money in things like lingerie, therapeutical asian massages, unspecified night clubs with unspecified reputation and so on.

Obviously their IT systems were prepared to diligently to deal carefully with the narrow range of credit cards numbers owned by these guys. And that’s what involves us here. Somebody (and I can imagine perfectly a young suited corporate guy with a poor salary) coded that system probably without even wondered himself what he was coding.

Those guys are not, by any mean, responsible of this scandal but It is a good example of how we can affect the world with our code. We code complex derivative trading orders, though by really smart mathematicians which barely understand them and They convert them to recipes for people who doesn’t understand them at all. We entirely coded the subprime crisis and only god knows what kind of disaster We are coding now.

In some moment of our lives we gave up our geeky culture which embraces really great values. I perfectly know money is a necessary evil and We can’t avoid paying bills, taxes… But when I see young kinds in college bragging about their commitment with open source, open values, free liberty, new monetary systems like bitcoin and years later They are coding for a horrendous bodyshops I cant avoid to think We are just posing, and no, Sticking cool javascript based technologies decals in your laptop is not going to save us if we keep coding harmful shit.

In the end this is a matter of coherence, coherence is a lost virtue in the 2.0 world. It is necessary for us to keep a minimum of coherence with our values. It is not the easiest path, it is the best path in the long term. And of course We shouldn’t forget our code affects people out there.

I strongly recommend this video, although It is about designing, applies nicely to us


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