# Ethics in Software **Ethical consequences of software practice**
EclipseCon Europe 2017 -- Ludwigsbug, Germany Boris Baldassari, [Castalia Solutions](http://castalia.solutions)
## Plan * Why do ethics matter? * Personal Ethics * Community Ethics * Use cases * Conclusion
## Why do ethics matter in software? Note:
### About Ethics [ 1 / 2 ] * **Ethics** is the study of *values* and *customs* of a person or a group. * Or: understanding the difference between right and wrong, and how to apply it. * Examples: Consequencialism, Deontology, Virtue. Note:
### About Ethics [ 2 / 2 ] * **Politics** is the study of the relative distribution of power / authority / privileges in human societies. * Technology is not neutral. * We are always making (technological) choices. * These choices have consequences. Note: Because software is ruling more and more our lives, every action we take when developing, supporting, spreading, or fixing software has a political impact. It has an impact on: * Direct users, how they will do their daily work. * Companies, how they will manage their processes and production lines * Institutions * All people
### Software is eating the world * Software is everywhere, and it has a tremendous impact on our lives. * Everyone uses software without even knowing it. * This technology is a double-edged sword. Note: We use software every day. States have digitalised a great part of our data. Our habits, through the phones, computers, network connections and bank transactions, are known and consigned somewhere. Software makes us fly, and sometimes crashes planes [ref needed]. Software makes us leave longer and better, and sometimes kills us when trying to do so [Therac]. Software makes us hear and see the whole world, and sometimes is used to counterfait it. And if war comes upon us, then we'll probably be killed by some software-engineered weapons.
### The consequences of software * Software has personal, communitarian, social and environmental consequences. * **Not everyone understands** what software is. **We do** understand software. We do know the limits, the risks, the consequences. **We can act.** * With great power comes great responsibility. Note: We, as hackers, used to be considered outsiders, on the margins of the society, but with the increase of the importance of the Internet, we have gained considerable power.
## Personal Ethics How do we, as individuals, manage ethics?
### History and Initiatives * Hacker's ethics (S. Levy, P. Himanem, E.S. Raymond..) * The four essential freedoms of free software (Richard Stallman) * Fab-Labs, conferences and workshops on ethical hacking, techno-shamanism, techno-utopians.. Note: Free software * The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose. * The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish. (*) * The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour. * The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others. (*)
(*) Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
It also means that following these lines we cannot prevent military use of a piece of software we have written. [Steven Levy](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hacker_ethic) (1984) suggests that there is a "code of ethics" for hacking which, though not engraved in stone, is in the air: * Access to Computers - and anything which might teach you something about the way the world works - should be unlimited and total. * All information should be free. * Mistrust Authority - Promote Decentralization. * Hackers should be judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race, or position. * Computers can change your life for the better.
### Self-introspection * Doing our own [mea culpa](https://medium.freecodecamp.org/the-code-im-still-ashamed-of-e4c021dff55e) helps. * Define our own ethical limits. What would we do, what would we not? * Read, think, discuss, share, build...
### Know yourself * Between what we know we would do and what we know we would never do there is a grey zone. * Most of the time the devil lies in this grey zone. * As a consequence, what we need to do is reduce this zone. * Where is our own grey zone? Do we do it right? Note: * Care. Be nice, do good. Discuss.
### Building ethical software * Licensing. * Adopting a code of conduct -- and enforcing it. * Setting up a transparent and fair governance model. * Nurishing quality- and ethical- initiatives. Note: * Contributor-Covenant * [Hacker's tribe](https://wiki.techinc.nl/index.php/Hackers_tribes)
## Community Ethics How do we, as a community, manage ethics?
### Ethics and code of conduct: state of practice * **Code of ethics** is for business and decision-making. * **Code of conduct** is for actions and behaviour. * Most organisations now have a code of conduct and/or a code of ethics. * Some professions have a **Code of professional practice**. (not ours though) Note: * Most of what we call ethics is unwritten. Instead, like many cultural rules, they're mostly implicit. But having a code of conduct is a good thing. It formalises the intent and lays down sane foundations for further discussion and action. * Code of deontology: many disciplines have a code of professional practice, e.g. Hypocrate's oath for medecine. * Big companies even have a variety of them for their contractors, colleagues, users, providers. * [Code of professional practice & Professional responsibility](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethical_code#Code_of_practice_.28professional_ethics.29)
### Ethics in Open source communities * All major forges (e.g. Apache, Eclipse, OpenStack) have a code of conduct and enforce it. * There is a common concern about the understanding, interpretation, and application of an ethics code and in most cases of a breach there are prompt reactions. * Procedures exist to report and deal with cases. * Strong emphasis on respect, diversity, fairness.. And meritocracy.
### Ethics at the Eclipse Foundation * Transparency, Openness, Meritocracy * **IP policy** — it's not only for lawyers, it's also about fairness. * **Governance** — a transparent and independent structure. * Many initiatives from members: diversity, demo camps, talks. * You can follow the conversation on the `#diversity` channel on Mattermost.
### A word about meritocracy Meritocracy is efficient, but it can be unethical. * Often results in [greater inequality](http://asq.sagepub.com/content/55/4/543.short). * Can be [excuse for bad behaviour](https://modelviewculture.com/pieces/the-dehumanizing-myth-of-the-meritocracy) based on contributions. * See [Emilio J. Castilla](https://ecastill.scripts.mit.edu/)'s work.
## Use Cases It's not always easy.
### Use Cases > Whistleblowers > *It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.* [ [Upton Sinclair](https://medium.com/@aarijmerchant/thank-you-for-sharing-your-experience-fc67bfc447c0) ] * Requires courage and preparation. * A very effective weapon against corruption. * Now some job interviews include such questions.
### Use Cases > Killer robots * Self-triggering weapons: no human in the loop. * Killer robots already exist (DoDaam, Samsung). * Antipersonnel mines are forbidden by the Geneva convention.
### Use Cases > Diesel gate * Big [institutionalised lie](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diesel_emissions_scandal). Everybody knew. * Meanwhile, [3 million people](http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs313/en/) die every year from outdoor air pollution. * Even whistleblowers were not heard (at least in France). Note: * The European authorities knew it, the states knew it, the company knew it. But as Segolene Royal (the former french head of the ministry for the environment) said during a commission review on the matter, "we cannot impede our national companies". * Meanwhile, outdoor air pollution [kills 3M people per year](http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs313/en/) in the world.
## Conclusion What about us?
### From oneself to the world * Ethics start from inner thinking and extend to the world. * We need to prepare ourselves for difficult situations. * Rising awareness, both as individuals and as a community, is mandatory. * One word: we **care**. Note: * Care. Be nice, do good. Discuss.
### What's next? * Write a manifesto (like Hypocrate's oath)? * Assess projects' ethical dimension (like maintainability or reliability)? * What about a suitable ethical label (like sustainable trade does)? Note: * Care. Be nice. Do good. Discuss.
### Thank you * References: https://ethical.software * Get the slides: https://ethical.software/talks/2017_eclipsecon_europe * Please vote!