Sean Fears, you’re right, of course. We’d want each party to and activity of digital lifecycle activity to imbue their work with responsibility.
On the one hand, we don’t have mechanisms for accountability. We build on the shoulders of strangers. When projects might produce or depend on a million lines of code, produced by dozens or thousands of individuals and across organizations and national borders, it’s hard to find someone to blame.
It also doesn’t help that software development is a fluid, rapidly changing, highly fragmented activity. The way software is built, who is building it, where it’s deployed, they are only slightly familiar if you took off from coding in 2006. Contrast this with the multigenerational stability of legal and accounting practice.
Even if we had methods for ethical accountability (“this code/design/user-test I’m checking in was performed in accord with ethical standard x”) and manage to find common ground on what’s right, we still have to deal with the fact that an ever-smaller portion of the programming pool has even heard of the ACM.
There are about 18.2 million software developers worldwide, a number that is due to rise to 26.4 million by 2019, a 45% increase, says Evans Data Corp. in its latest Global Developer Population and Demographic Study. Today, the U.S. leads the world in software developers, with about 3.6 million.
— Jul 10, 2013
This doesn’t even include casual developers, or software that automates what programmers used to do, or software that builds software. Those are all out of the reach of developers who majored in software engineering at university. So ethical computing has a massive evangelical challenge.