Director, Software Engineering Ethics Research Institute (http://seeri.etsu.edu).
Getting it Right: Just one more task, Software Engineering Ethics??
Software engineering’s contribution to the generation deployment and maintenance of software artifacts and systems is critical. Their products provide opportunities to do good or cause harm, to enable others to do good or cause harm, or to influence others to do good or cause harm. Systems are generally so complex that the smallest misstep can lead to unwanted consequences for a broad range of stakeholders. An arsenal of technical software risk reduction tools and techniques designed to reduce system risks which are diligently employed until time runs out and the product must be delivered.
Nevertheless, there are a number of software systems which fail to achieve their hoped for success. Repeated modifications of these risk approaches leads to some improvements but not to the degree expected. These risk identification methods frequently ignore stakeholders beyond the developer, client, and user. Risk identification methods which help with this broader analysis are ignored. I introduce two techniques which have been shown to help software engineers anticipate and reduce potential socio-technical negative system impacts, reducing the need for recall and rework.
These methods also open up a positive side of risk analysis. In many cases, this additional analysis task has indicated ways, not merely to reduce harm, but also indicating low-cost changes which can improve the positive impacts of our work on society.
Dr. Don Gotterbarn is the Director of the Software Engineering Ethics Research Institute, Professor Emeritus East Tennessee State University and visiting professor at the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility, UK. He worked as a computer consultant on international software projects for the U.S. Navy, the Saudi Arabian Navy, and the European Union. Projects included decision support systems, vote counting machines, and missile defense systems. He taught at schools like the University of Southern California, and did training for the National Security Agency- USA and TATA Consultancy Services- India. He has been active as a researcher and participant promoting professional computer standards and ethics for over 25 years. His research has appeared in more than 100 articles in professional journals, and his contribution to the field has been recognized by various professional bodies (e.g. the “Making a Difference” award (2002) from ACM Computers and Society, the “ACM Outstanding Contribution” award (2005) for promoting ethical behavior of professionals and organizations, and the International Society for Ethics and Information Technology “Joseph Weizenbaum” award (2010) for his contributions to the field of information and computer ethics, and was a finalist for the World Technology Summit Awards 2011.