Tech, Ethics, #ClimateStrikes and “it’s not my decision how you use my software”

Paul Johnston

Yesterday, Chef made a decision.

https://blog.chef.io/2019/09/19/chefs-position-on-customer-engagement-in-the-public-and-private-sectors/

The decision is the same as many tech companies and especially US companies make: to abdicate responsibility for how the product of a company is used.

The response was prompted by a former Chef employee removing a number of Ruby Gems from Chef impacting production systems.

This response also came on the day before Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and many other tech company employees decided to walk out in solidarity with the School Climate Strikers in the global #ClimateStrike, Chef decided to tell the world that any US Government department can use their software how they wish.

https://twitter.com/emahlee/status/1174752845565816834?s=19

While Amazon and Google made big announcements yesterday around Climate Change these don’t go far enough. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice still want the oil to stay in the ground and for Amazon to stop working with oil companies.

https://twitter.com/AMZNforClimate/status/1174729463344427008?s=19

Employees and former employees (I am a former AWS employee) have power. We can change companies and we’re just seeing the start of this.

But the response from Chef shows a disconnect between what employees are beginning to realise they can ask for. What many employees want is an acceptance that technology has to take a lead and also a fair share of responsibility.

Employees want their companies to be ethical and to stand for something. I can completely understand why employees are angry at Chef because they have literally ceded all power in their relationship. This is exactly what I have seen in conversations with technologists over and over again.

Technologists have power.

Removing a few Ruby Gems may not seem like much but it’s disrupted a major company and started a conversation.

Maybe that’s the same as Extinction Rebellion disrupting central London for 2 weeks.

It moved the Overton Window on Climate Change.

So maybe technologists should be looking at the weapons they do have and the big issues of our time.

Maybe we should be looking at a new form of open source license that has restrictions against use for modern slavery and oil extraction (as non exhaustive examples).

Maybe we should be updating our foundations to think long term and to look at being a way to force change in this world instead of simply seeing them as tools that anybody can use.

Climate Change isn’t simply about fossil fuels. It’s about protecting our environment and fighting inequality and educating around the world and a whole lot more.

So why not turn the people in the tech world who do not have the money into the change makers.

Change the things we can change.

The licenses, walking out in support of school strikes, speaking up when our companies abdicate responsibility for something that they should not.

So Chef, why shouldn’t you stop working with ICE if you find what they do wrong? I would. Many employees would I’m sure. Maybe it is the right thing to do. They’ll find someone else I’m sure but this isn’t a good look now.

Technology is power.

Do not let those with money control that power.

That is exactly what we’ve done every other time.

And those people get to control the politics of the future.

Let’s not do it again.

So I’m writing this on a train on my way to support the Global #ClimateStrike in London because I care about how this industry moves forward.

So let’s do this.

    Paul Johnston

    Written by

    ServerlessDays CoFounder (Jeff), ex AWS Serverless Snr DA, experienced CTO/Interim, Startups, Entrepreneur, Techie, Geek and Christian

    Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
    Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
    Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade