Don Gotterbarn, Co-Chairman at the ACM Committee on Professional Ethics
October 14, 2020 – 10:00am EST
Effective Ethicking versus Ethical Theatre: practical approaches to better computing
Good computing professionals and ethical corporations have been tarnished by the unethical behavior of some developers like those falsifying emission test data. In response to this, many organizations have started to discuss professional ethics. Unfortunately, much of this is only ethical theatre which merely addresses obvious unethical behavior.
There are, however, many situations where there is no evildoer perpetrating harm; where well-intentioned individuals go about their usual routines unknowingly contributing to unconsidered harm. There are significant elements that contribute to these unnoticed ethical challenges. Concrete strategies and specific interventions can be proactively used by management, human resources, and developers, to identify and mitigate these unnoticed ethical challenges. The use of these strategies has several positive documented corporate and social benefits. This talk describes these strategies and how to implement them, leading to practical ethicking rather than ethics theatre.
We live in a world today where Ethics are being challenged daily. This is very true in technology as well. Don creates cartoons of ethical issues in computing, such as when known errors generate incomprehensible error messages in inappropriate contexts. The competent completion of this system may meet their technical specifications but is a failure because it did not meet the less obvious ethical requirements. Every employee or an executive will encounter situations where our ethics come under pressure as there are always easy approaches available that do not meet the bar. It is about doing the right thing when no one is watching. Don Gotterbarn was one of the key people involved in the development of the ACM “Code of Ethics” as the Co-Chairman at ACM. Business and Technology Professionals’ Association of Canada (BIZTEK) is using those same Code of Ethics under Authority from ACM.
Who is Don Gotterbarn?
Don Gotterbarn has extensive experience both in academia and software systems developer, working on systems for the U.S. Navy, the Saudi Arabian Navy, vote-counting machines, and missile defense.
He has spent several decades promoting responsible computing practices, including as director of the Software Engineering Ethics Research Institute and as a visiting professor at the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility in England. He has taught at institutions like the University of Southern California, at government agencies like NSA, the Australian Department of Defense, and was a visiting scientist at Carnegie Mellon’s Software Engineering Institute. He led the 2018 update of the ACM Code of Ethics and the development of the IEEE/ACM Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice. These contributions to responsible computing have resulted in him being awarded the ACM Outstanding Contribution Award (2005), the International Society for Ethics and Information Technology Joseph Weizenbaum Award (2010), and the ACM Presidential Award (2018). He is a distinguished ACM Distinguished speaker- giving talks nationally and internationally, e.g. Columbia in 2019, and scheduled for Brazil National Computer Society in November 2020. He is a current member of the BCS ICT Ethics Specialist Group, was a Research fellow at Australian National University, a Professor of Software Engineering Ethics at Auckland University of Technology for a year, a visiting scientist at worked on several European Union Software Projects, a visiting professor for several years at the UK Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility, etc. He works with the International Federation of Information Processing as Chair of their Ethical Frameworks group and the ACM representative to TC 9 – ICT and Society. He spent several years as a software engineer/consultant with organizations like Boeing Military Air, Raytheon Missile Systems, Saudi Navy, TATA Consultancy Services, US Navy, and others.