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Last post Author Topic: Ethics in Technology  (Read 8224 times)

wraith808

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Ethics in Technology
« on: September 21, 2015, 06:43:13 PM »
So, I've never personally been confronted with this, and I'm glad, because the reality of it is I sadly don't think I know what I'd do if I was.

From the AVG bit, to the Microsoft Privacy concerns, to Volkswagon's dodge around emissions, it's the developers and engineers that are the first (or is that last) line of defense against companies using technology for purposes that are against the public good.

In particular, on Volkswagon's dodge, it appears that the implementation had to be spot on in order to get away with it for this long:
Quote
Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reports for our Newscast unit:

"The German automaker will have to recall about 482,000 Audi and Volkswagen cars with 4-cylinder turbo diesel engines. The issue affects 2009 through 2015 model years.
"The cars have devices that turn emissions controls on during tests and off during normal driving.
"The deception is a serious violation of the Clean Air Act, for which CEO Martin Winterkorn says he is personally deeply sorry, and he promises the company will do whatever is necessary to reverse the damage this has caused. The company faces potentially billions in fines and other costs."

On Friday, the EPA and the California Air Resources Board said that a "defeat device" had allowed diesel Jettas, Beetles and other cars to "emit up to 40 times more pollution" than allowed under U.S. standards.

Saying that Volkswagen has ordered an external investigation of the software exploit that skirted U.S. emissions tests, Winterkorn stated, "We do not and will not tolerate violations of any kind of our internal rules or of the law."

I never took an ethics class for software engineers- it wasn't required when I was in school.  I don't know if it is, and if they cover this now.  And are there other ramifications, in particular this doesn't sound good for anyone involved:

Quote
"Using a defeat device in cars to evade clean air standards is illegal and a threat to public health," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

I thought this would make good food for discussion from a higher level (no politics in this, please to keep it above ground).

Personally, I'm not sure that I could do what I would want to- i.e. tell them to stuff it and just walk out.  I support a pretty substantial family, and I'm the only one really working.  I would hope that what I would do is bide my time until I found something else and jump ship.  I would hope that I couldn't continue to work for such a company.  But hope is the truthful word, if I look at it honestly.

Thoughts?

JavaJones

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2015, 09:48:10 PM »
I'm not quite sure what I'd do either, but I will say this is exactly why we need protection for whistle-blowers. Not just legal protection but perhaps even basic financial assistance or job assurance for *confirmed* reports of corporate illegal activities.

- Oshyan

anandcoral

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2015, 03:26:20 AM »
"Ethics in Technology" or in any other profession for the matter, do not exist in front of "Profit Making"
 
Look at Doctors, they forget that they should treat a "patient" no matter how poor he/she is.
The Charted Account help to dodge the Govt. laws to save tax.
And it is better not to speak about the Lawyers.

Same way Engineers of IT, Electrical, Civil etc. are used by their Bosses to make profit and a big one. They just work as servant to help some one make profit and in turn earn their livelihood, all over the world.

When one is caught, some clean up is done and then everything is back to one. Same will happen to VW and we will forget about it in few years.

Regards,

Anand

MilesAhead

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2015, 07:24:44 AM »
It sounds like this system automated what we used to do manually when emissions tests first became part of the Safety Inspection(at least in Massachusetts anyway.)  If set to pass the emissions test even new cars would run like crap.  So when a customer came in for a safety inspection, we did the safety part, checking front end components, floorboards, windshield etc..  then we would hook up the emissions tester(a diagnostic scope with a probe that went up the tailpipe.)

We would lean out the carburetor, run the emissions test, pass the car and put the sticker on.  Then enrich the mixture to stop the engine from stumbling.  In addition to the sticker charge we charged the customer for a carburetor adjustment.  Eventually most cars switched over to fuel injection.  But perhaps the same problem persists.  The car just won't run right adjusted that lean.

The insanity in Florida was that cars would wait in line at emissions inspection stations with their engines running to get tested.  Finally somebody in government in Florida saw the light and just cancelled the emissions tests altogether.  There was more pollution produced by cars queued up for the test than saved by enforcing the standards.  Also it was a real drag sitting in line breathing exhaust fumes for an hour every year.


wraith808

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2015, 08:20:57 AM »
"Ethics in Technology" or in any other profession for the matter, do not exist in front of "Profit Making"
 
Look at Doctors, they forget that they should treat a "patient" no matter how poor he/she is.
The Charted Account help to dodge the Govt. laws to save tax.
And it is better not to speak about the Lawyers.

Same way Engineers of IT, Electrical, Civil etc. are used by their Bosses to make profit and a big one. They just work as servant to help some one make profit and in turn earn their livelihood, all over the world.

When one is caught, some clean up is done and then everything is back to one. Same will happen to VW and we will forget about it in few years.

Regards,

Anand


You seem to be talking about from a business level.  What you have written is sadly a given.  I'm talking about from a personal level.  As developers, what is our responsibility to the personal good?  And what happens when that conflicts with our personal livelihood.  That's a stickier question- but that puts it directly on personal responsibility, ethics, and morals.

If your boss came to you and said the company has decided to move in a direction that compromises user privacy, safety, etc- and you need to start designing and coding this now, what would you do?  Because these aren't put in place in a vacuum.  Someone programmed the Microsoft data collection technologies.  Someone coded and engineered the VW cheats.  There is a real team of individuals behind each of these "technological innovations".  What if you became one of these faceless individuals?  And what kind of individual culpability will come out of these investigations?  It could be you on the line at some point.  And the protections that cover the companies with their teams of lawyers will most likely not apply to you- the scapegoat.

Stoic Joker

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2015, 11:19:46 AM »
If your boss came to you and said the company has decided to move in a direction that compromises user privacy, safety, etc- and you need to start designing and coding this now, what would you do?

Depending on my mood at the time, and how it was presented. My reaction would be one or more of the below.
A. Tell him to go f*** himself.
B. Proceed with the project, but quietly code (and leak) a ton of holes in it the size of Montana.
C. Walk out on the spot.

I walked on a job in aircraft years ago, because I didn't like what they were planning to do with product quality. I'd been there 10 years, and had moved (across country) twice for the job.

They said we're doing X.
I said not with my ass you ain't
2 weeks later they realized I wasn't bluffing.

anandcoral

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2015, 12:36:20 PM »
It could be you on the line at some point.  And the protections that cover the companies with their teams of lawyers will most likely not apply to you- the scapegoat.
Yes, I have done it.

We make mostly accounting and inventory software. At times I have questioned about the purpose of a particular feature, which I felt was not correct. I got the standard reply, "How does it matter to you or us ? The client want software for this feature. You code it, I sell it. We get our pays. Done."

Many of my software are used to adjust accounting records as per need. If I say we do not make it. Whole lot of programmers and companies are ready to do it. Looking back, when there was no computers and I worked as an accountant, I have done this manually under my then boss. It is just that now I code it, for others to do the same more easily.

Sad, but we are bound to earn for our family and ourselves.

Regards,

Anand

wraith808

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2015, 12:44:52 PM »
If your boss came to you and said the company has decided to move in a direction that compromises user privacy, safety, etc- and you need to start designing and coding this now, what would you do?

Depending on my mood at the time, and how it was presented. My reaction would be one or more of the below.
A. Tell him to go f*** himself.
B. Proceed with the project, but quietly code (and leak) a ton of holes in it the size of Montana.
C. Walk out on the spot.

I walked on a job in aircraft years ago, because I didn't like what they were planning to do with product quality. I'd been there 10 years, and had moved (across country) twice for the job.

They said we're doing X.
I said not with my ass you ain't
2 weeks later they realized I wasn't bluffing.


I wish I could be sure I'd do that.  But I also know that they did something totally stupid (they didn't want to take the time when I wrote something to make it re-usable, then it was C&P twice before I took it in my hands to rewrite it myself.  I did get a big bonus for taking that initiative, so it wasn't a selfless thing).  At the time it was happening, I was raging, so much that they had to go up the chain to the VP to get me to calm down.  The usual platitudes - we need it now, but don't have the time nor resources, especially because we have you on a different project.  The point is- those platitudes kept me from walking.

I hope I could be as brave as you, but I totally understand Anand's point in the post above.

Google isn't Evil, and neither is Microsoft.  And it's not the policies coding our future away.  It's people with livelihoods.  But by not asking the hard questions and pondering in advance over what you would do, or how much do you really care about these issues, we become part of the problem, and get paid to do it.  How soon do we become exactly what we don't like because of pragmatism and practicality?

anandcoral

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2015, 05:16:10 AM »
Highlights what I was trying to say for Ethic and Profit Making. Boss is always...

http://www.commitstr...ware-worth-billions/

Regards,

Anand

wraith808

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2015, 07:31:58 AM »
Highlights what I was trying to say for Ethic and Profit Making. Boss is always...

http://www.commitstr...ware-worth-billions/

Regards,

Anand


But that's still just the boss.  We can't blame him if we didn't have the stomach to do something different.  HE didn't code it, WE did.

IainB

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2015, 09:06:46 AM »
The OP seems to be making the judgement/assertion that AVG, Microsoft, and Volkswagon have somehow been unethical/immoral and worked against the public good.
Is that necessarily true?

What do we mean by "ethics" and "morals" anyway?

Definitions:
  • ethics:
    Quote
    · pl. n.
    1 [usu. treated as pl.] the moral principles governing or influencing conduct.
    2 [usu. treated as sing.] the branch of knowledge concerned with moral principles.
    – DERIVATIVES ethicist n.
    Concise Oxford Dictionary (10th Ed.)
    _____________________

  • moral:
    Quote
    · adj.
    1 concerned with the principles of right and wrong behaviour and the goodness or badness of human character.
    2 adhering to the code of behaviour that is considered right or acceptable.
    · n.
    1 a lesson that can be derived from a story or experience.
    2 (morals) standards of behaviour, or principles of right and wrong.
    – DERIVATIVES morally adv.
    – ORIGIN ME: from L. moralis, from mos, mor- ‘custom’, (pl.) mores ‘morals’.
    Concise Oxford Dictionary (10th Ed.)
    _____________________

wraith808

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2015, 11:08:41 AM »
The OP seems to be making the judgement/assertion that AVG, Microsoft, and Volkswagon have somehow been unethical/immoral and worked against the public good.
Is that necessarily true?


That's a bad read, though not necessarily untrue.  What I'm saying is that the programmer's facilitated their wrongdoing.  The bit with VW was definitely against the public interest.  Compromising privacy?  With or without notification- that's against the public good also.

I clarify it a bit more in a later post.

Google isn't Evil, and neither is Microsoft.  And it's not the policies coding our future away.  It's people with livelihoods.  But by not asking the hard questions and pondering in advance over what you would do, or how much do you really care about these issues, we become part of the problem, and get paid to do it.  How soon do we become exactly what we don't like because of pragmatism and practicality?

40hz

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #12 on: September 23, 2015, 11:26:45 AM »
It could be you on the line at some point.  And the protections that cover the companies with their teams of lawyers will most likely not apply to you- the scapegoat.
Yes, I have done it.

We make mostly accounting and inventory software. At times I have questioned about the purpose of a particular feature, which I felt was not correct. I got the standard reply, "How does it matter to you or us ? The client want software for this feature. You code it, I sell it. We get our pays. Done."

Many of my software are used to adjust accounting records as per need. If I say we do not make it. Whole lot of programmers and companies are ready to do it. Looking back, when there was no computers and I worked as an accountant, I have done this manually under my then boss. It is just that now I code it, for others to do the same more easily.

Sad, but we are bound to earn for our family and ourselves.

Regards,

Anand


I'm curious as to what you were asked to do that you didn't agree with. Could you elaborate a little? Because my background and degree are in accounting, and I can't really see where anything in a software program would enable someone to legally or even practically circumvent generally accepted accounting principles. Because as you well know, it doesn't matter how you come up with your reported numbers. Manual or computerized, you're still held 100% liable for any errors regardless of what caused them if you're an accountant reporting them.

So I can't see where a customer request for a feature would make your company cross an ethical line. So I could be wrong or missing something. But I'm still curious.  :huh:

40hz

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #13 on: September 23, 2015, 12:27:17 PM »
The OP seems to be making the judgement/assertion that AVG, Microsoft, and Volkswagon have somehow been unethical/immoral and worked against the public good.
Is that necessarily true?


In the case of VW, there was a deliberate effort made to evade environmental protection laws by placing a bit of code within their software to do so. And then doing little to correct it once it came to light about a year ago. I don't think there can be any reasonable argument made that it was unintentional or an unknown issue. Especially considering it was caught still being actively employed almost a year later. The letter from the EPA to Volkswagon can be read here. It makes the government's position very clear that there can be no chance of misunderstanding exactly what Volkswagon was attempting to accomplish when it introduced the "switch" and certain "road calibration" features into its software.

(Note: the CEO of VW announced his resignation this morning. More here.)

I'm not sure how much that had to do with his ethics - or with the practical economic realities of VW's stock price taking a beating in the face of potentially billions in fines and penalties, an estimated 11 million vehicle recall, and some economist's concerns that this is a large enough corporate faux pas to result in a measurable negative effect on Germany's entire national economy.

But whatever. Cat's out of the bag. All that remains is to do the usual spin control and deal with the aftermath.

Expect the German government to become directly involved at some point due to the possible economic ramifications.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2015, 12:45:21 PM by 40hz »

IainB

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #14 on: September 24, 2015, 01:05:53 AM »
Following the above comments, I would suggest from experience that the consideration of shady/dodgy, immoral, corrupt, unethical, borderline legal and downright illegal strategies is arguably the necessary norm for savvy senior management in many/most organisations, not just the three mentioned in the OP.
The proof of that is a history littered with relatively recent examples of this, in different countries worldwide, and would include governments, quangos, for-profit corporations, non-profits, and grant-funded academic/scientific research organisations. Of course, it goes without saying that ordinarily overtly criminal organisations would be in the mix as well.

For overtly non-criminal organisations, it will usually all be very hard-nosed and with defined, deliberate objectives, and in most cases require a collective/team effort to get it sanctioned  - if only tacitly - within the organisation, often/usually at Board level.
If the strategists have a strategy that can do something to maximise or optimise their profitability/gain, and if their evaluation of the risks and probabilities of critical blowback (i.e., unacceptable risks, where the potential financial risks might far outweigh the potential financial benefits) tells them that they can probably get away with it with minimal subsequent collateral damage control, then they are likely to feel obliged to seriously consider employing that strategy.

I am not sure whether it would be correct to label the strategists involved - or the other people they will necessarily co-opt along the way to help them pursue the strategy selected - as "bad" people. "Misguided", or of "deficient character" in some way, perhaps, yes - e.g., spineless - but, "bad"?
"Stupid" might be more appropriate, even for the clever ones.

I have in the past been put under enormous pressure, including thinly-veiled threats, in two different organisations, to enable something morally wrong to be accomplished at the financial expense of others, and in both cases I declined and in both cases it cost me my job.

The first case:
This was an internal matter in a major shared IT services subsidiary owned by a consortium of the New Zealand trading banks, where the senior management wanted to essentially rip off the pension funds of a group of non-management personnel during a planned restructuring/downsizing, which would leave the management group pension fund holding the seized funds by default, and thus any managers who were made redundant would be left laughing all the way to the bank.
As a highly ethical member of the senior management team and with no financial interest in the pension funds involved, I had documented a reasoned memo recommending that the matter be put on the agenda and addressed as important by the staff association committee, as it could have been perceived in hinsight (after the event) as being grossly unfair and tantamount to constructive theft. That rather set the cat amongst the pigeons.
A member of the senior management team came to quietly advise me that the management team were not happy about the memo, and that I was required to formally rescind it, whereupon the matter would be forgotten, or something.
The ominous threat was then conveyed that, "otherwise", I would be considered as "not playing as a member of the management team". Scary stuff.
The cretin who had been selected as messenger to deliver this cowardly verbal message to me, and whom I had previously held in high regard as a professional and able manager, was unaware that I had no tolerance at all for people who made threats or tried to intimidate me, so I politely told him that I would not rescind the memo and sat back to await events.
_______________________

The second Case:
This was a major New Zealand-owned (including a government stake) company whose output formed a significant item of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) for the national economy, and a hugely significant export item in the national accounts.
I was responsible for managing a portfolio of around 80 IT-related projects for the company's worldwide operations. The projects ranged in estimated cost from at least NZ$500K to several millions of dollars, and a conventional project lifecycle management method was used. One of these projects came to the BC (Business Case) stage, with a verbal request for URGENCY from my manager, and my job was simply to ensure that the BC was put swiftly through the usual gates in the formal project review process before being recommended for capex (capital expenditure) approval.

The BC had evidently come down from on high as it was apparently already signed off by (from memory) the then CEO and relevant senior/business stakeholder managers, but not the CFO.
The BC was based on the proposal for a restructuring of the SAP system for the company's organisation in a foreign nation. I saw (as an accountant) that this would effectively restructure the books of the company, but that was all, and I couldn't quite see why the urgency nor the point of it all until I came to the Benefits (short-term) part of the BC, which said that the restructured accounts (costing a modest outlay) would then configure the company such that it would be a de facto qualifying candidate for an approx. $5M once-off grant from the foreign government's revenue authority, under a specific government Act that had been passed to afford economic stimulus to a certain type of company with this structure.

Interested, but skeptical, I reread the BC and then did some research on the foreign government's Act in question. What I quickly discovered was that the Act would most definitely have delivered the grant funds BUT, if the organisation applying for the grant did not already have the required accounting structure, and if it then restructured solely to take advantage of the grant, then not only would this invalidate the organisation's application for the grant, but also it would be considered as a federal offence with severe penalties attached. I couldn't believe the mind-boggling idiocy of the proposers of this BC, and presumed that the senior managers who had already signed off on this had not been made aware of the risks. I mean not just the financial risks, but also the huge political/legal risks of a New Zealand (with government as a major stakeholder) organisation knowingly and deliberately defrauding the foreign government of a country where that government had allowed the company to operate, expecting it to obey that country's laws. I pointed out where, the same organisation, but in an earlier form, had similarly breached regulations in a large European market, and that had had major adverse repercussions for the organisation's profitability, the New Zealand government, and the New Zealand economy for several years after.

So, in plain English, I detailed the technical and financial/political/legal risks, said that it was thus not recommended for capex approval, and passed the BC back to the sponsor, whereupon all Hell started to let loose.
About 30 minutes later, our manager - whom I tried to respect but whom I felt adequately fitted (by his actions) the description "a f-ing idiot" conferred upon him ungenerously by my possibly more perspicacious colleagues - aggressively confronted me in my cubicle and asked me why I had not approved the BC. He was angry, so I presume someone had kicked his backside over this. He explained that the Executive wanted this BC to be approved for capex so that it could start immediately, and the $5M flow of benefits could thus be accounted for in this FYE. He needed me to approve it, now. At this, my lights went on. The risks had already been understood before I had clapped eyes on the BC. Some people just don't learn.

So I carefully repeated the description of the critical financial/political/legal risks and said that in all conscience I couldn't approve something as risky as that - it was outside of my fiduciary authority to approve - and if I did approve it, then if/when the thing backfired, the auditors would know who to come and blame for it. It would be repeating a mistake from the organisation's history. He got the point and rushed off to talk to his betters and I went home as it was the end of the day.

He was back first thing the next morning, still aggressive and angry. Clearly, he was under a lot of pressure over this matter,  and he thought I was being difficult. Through sometimes clenched teeth he instructed me to review the BC for technical risks and write a fresh report and recommendation for capex. on that basis alone, and I was NOT to review the financial/political/legal risks.
I looked at him and decided my colleagues were definitely correct in their estimation of this guy's abilities.
I patiently pointed out that by hamstringing me like that, I would be unable to properly perform my role, which had been created to avoid a repetition of former days when many IT projects had run aground because of inadequate risk management and projects thus getting capex. approval and then failing miserably and causing severe financial loss. I watched his face. Oh dear. The truth. But he seemed trapped by fear and couldn't budge.

So of course he insisted I do as he instructed, and so I did, carefully mentioning in my report that my risk review did not cover any potential financial/political/legal risks, and recommended it for capex. on that basis alone.
However, being scrupulously ethical in business matters, by nature and from training for work in very high security and fiduciary management areas, I could not leave it there. It was my problem and it was like a huge gorilla on my back, which was simply unfair, as it was the organisation's problem. So I made it SEP (Somebody Else's Problem) and dumped it back on the organisation that had created it. I copied my two reports on the BC to the Internal Audit manager, with a covering email that suggested the BC be audited for critical potential overseas risk assessment, and that if this was outside of their jurisdiction then they might consider asking the external auditors for advice on the financial/political/legal risks. That way, left and right hands got the message, and were left holding the responsibility, and it would be too hot to handle. An Internal Audit function is usually beholden only to the Board/CFO, but I had delivered the problem to them in such a way as they couldn't suppress or ignore it and would be obliged to take it to the External Auditors, who would put the kibosh on it PDQ - which is what I later gathered had happened.
_______________________
« Last Edit: September 24, 2015, 01:21:33 AM by IainB »

anandcoral

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #15 on: September 27, 2015, 04:45:58 AM »
Sorry for late reply. Was taking care of my ailing wife, my first priority. She is recovering now.

So I can't see where a customer request for a feature would make your company cross an ethical line. So I could be wrong or missing something. But I'm still curious.  :huh:

Yes it is difficult to say if it can be called ethically wrong. It all depends on the side of the line where one is standing.
I can not say about the real projects, for obvious reasons. All the work the software does fulfills the rules of the accounting books. Just for hint I give below as example.

Compamy X pays a big amount in cheque to Organisation Y which has tax benefit. Then Y encash the cheque and pays back cash to X after deducting some percentage. Now in the books of Y there is a big cash amount. The software auto generates expenses as per rules and the account is closed.

The above is practised all over the world and not considered wrong. But if you see the larger impact, it do not seem ethically right.
May be I am wrong.

Regards,

Anand

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #16 on: September 28, 2015, 11:21:53 PM »
I've refused to do jobs because they were egregiously unethical. They would have paid a LOT... sigh... Conscience has a price.

I thought this would make good food for discussion from a higher level (no politics in this, please to keep it above ground).

Ethics are problematic and eventually degenerate into screaming matches, so it's one of those areas where tact is needed, and a sense for knowing when to just bow out.

For VW, I'm not particularly disturbed by anything they did. But, I don't buy that they have any kind of ethical obligation to obey arbitrary/dubious laws. (I have zero faith in any kind of environmental legislation/regulation as it is too often used abusively.)

What nobody will ask is whether or not the regulations that VW violated are ethical.

The question of ethics should focus on whether the actual emissions are ethical/unethical, and not on any law.

tl;dr - If you're using the law as a measure for morality, you're gonna have a bad time.

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Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

tomos

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #17 on: September 29, 2015, 05:21:10 AM »
For VW, I'm not particularly disturbed by anything they did. But, I don't buy that they have any kind of ethical obligation to obey arbitrary/dubious laws. (I have zero faith in any kind of environmental legislation/regulation as it is too often used abusively.)

What nobody will ask is whether or not the regulations that VW violated are ethical.

The question of ethics should focus on whether the actual emissions are ethical/unethical, and not on any law.

another aspect is that, because they have lied and deceived, they will lose a lot of sales.

Re the regulations, having cycled for years in a very busy inner city, I can tell you this:
you cannot filter out diesel fumes. I grew to hate them so much. I had high quality masks/filters, but apparently the only way to block diesel fumes is to block air completely. I've read that they are a proven carcinogenic.

I dont know what the regulations are like in the States, so cant comment specifically about them. But regulating diesel emmisions seems like a very good idea to me.
Judging by this action by VW, the motor industry wouldn't give a toss, if not for the regulations. Unfortunately, I suspect that many (most?) drivers wouldnt care either, but maybe I'm just being cynical there...
Tom

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #18 on: September 29, 2015, 11:00:16 AM »
Judging by this action by VW, the motor industry wouldn't give a toss, if not for the regulations.

That's what I'm curious about. There are positive market forces that provide incentives for auto manufacturers to create cleaner engines. There are also unrealistic regulations that go past the point of diminishing returns, which creates a burden for the manufacturers and drives up prices for consumers. Somewhere in that broad spectrum there are balances for different needs.

But as to whether or not the industry would respond to consumer demand... I'm a bit less cynical than you there. I think most people want clean energy and clean devices/machines/engines, so there would be that segment for cleaner engines in the same way that Volvo built itself on safety.
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Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

40hz

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #19 on: September 29, 2015, 02:58:02 PM »
I think this pretty accurately reflects the general mindset in most of the larger corporate world:

charles-saxon-of-course-honesty-is-one-of-the-better-policies-new-yorker-cartoon.jpg

Which, to be fair, is really no different than most of the mindset in the non-corporate world.

As my grandfather used to say: Most people are all for doing what's right - as long as it doesn't cost or inconvenience them too much.  ;)

tomos

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #20 on: September 29, 2015, 03:20:37 PM »
There are positive market forces that provide incentives for auto manufacturers to create cleaner engines. There are also unrealistic regulations that go past the point of diminishing returns, which creates a burden for the manufacturers and drives up prices for consumers. Somewhere in that broad spectrum there are balances for different needs.

From what I've heard on the radio here, this was broadly speaking about smaller cars being both affordable, and able to pass the tests, because smaller diesel cars are not so efficient nor as clean as bigger ones. While the logical step would have been to simply not make smaller diesel engines, greed kicked in -- greed for market share that otherwise would not have existed in the regulated world.
Now, VW are getting a land -- that's balance too.

You presume everything would work out fine -- do I presume that everything needs to be regulated? Maybe. Tbh, I suspect neither one of us is correct in our assumptions, but we may never know...
Tom

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #21 on: September 29, 2015, 07:33:43 PM »
I come from "Old Accounting" too and I once walked off a job from an agency that was just so wrong on any level I couldn't take it. Thankfully my family is well off enough to pick me up a couple of times!

And sometimes if that happens too many times to you, that wrecks your entire mental health. Mine got wrecked by something else, but I took Ethics classes in biz school and they don't include things Like Volks-w fscking mech engineering things to fsck the clean air act.

So we're left with a Net culture where you hear about scary things from posts on ... DonationCoder.com

Just ... wow.

"Your car maker is trying to play you. And you learned about it ... on DC."

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MilesAhead

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #22 on: September 30, 2015, 06:57:57 AM »
From what I've heard on the radio here, this was broadly speaking about smaller cars being both affordable, and able to pass the tests, because smaller diesel cars are not so efficient nor as clean as bigger ones

There is also noise pollution.  These diesel autos generally have very poor acceleration from a standing start, such as a stop light.  To counteract that the automatic transmission is set to wind out in first gear to get the heap moving.  Listening to that ruins my day.

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #23 on: September 30, 2015, 08:04:16 AM »
As my grandfather used to say: Most people are all for doing what's right - as long as it doesn't cost or inconvenience them too much. 


And it doesn't bother them... until they get caught.

IainB

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Re: Ethics in Technology
« Reply #24 on: September 30, 2015, 06:31:46 PM »
Good rule of thumb here:
Quote
"The rule of thumb is that, if a business process can not stand the hard light of scrutiny, then there is probably something unethical about it". - Sir Adrian Cadbury (Chairman of the then Quaker family-owned Cadbury's) in his prize-winning article on Business Ethics, for Harvard Business Review, circa 1984.