Musing Four

Musing Four

In my first musing, I stated that I wanted to write at least 500 words twice a month. I posted three articles; then hit a wall. So, nine months later I am ready to try again. The wall I hit was not writer’s block, it was not laziness. It was more an inability to decide how to start. I had read Uncle Bob Martin’s blog article “Prelude to a Profession”. In it he argues that programmers “rule the world.” And as a result, programming should become a profession with a code of ethics. The profession would be managed like the medical, legal and engineering professions.

My first quandary was whether I wanted to write about ethics, ethics as they apply to computer programming or the idea of a professional organization. Fifty plus years ago, I minored in philosophy at USF. I don’t recall ever taking a class focused on ethics. I don’t know if the Jesuits offered one. (No black pope theories, please). So, I embarked on a little pondering and a little reading and decided this is not the forum for that type of discussion.

Also, in my 30 plus years as an IT professional, I have been a member of several organizations that propounded a code of ethics (Network Professional Association, Independent Computer Consultants Association, Association for Computing Machinery). I am not averse to ethical standards for the industry. And I don’t believe anything I authored would be any better than theirs.

So, I began to think about Martin’s proposal that programming become a “managed” (my term) profession with an organization like the AMA or the American Bar Association that needs government approval to attain its membership. I saw two issues with that:

First, coding is a creative act. Anyone with a device and a knowledge of that device’s language can code. Think of it as the authoring of a document. If an individual understands a language and has a medium within which to express that language (paper and pencil, stylus and clay tablet), then he/she can express his/her thoughts. Governments might try to suppress publication of the writings; but no organization exists that licenses creativity. (Thankfully, for such an organization would stifle it.)

Secondly, coding is global not regional. With the implementation of the Internet, coders linked the world’s nations. With the invention of social media and search engines, they heightened the awareness of much of the world’s population. But coders also hacked the American elections and the Iranian nuclear program. Obviously, nation states use coders to attack each other and to censor their citizens. Google’s dilemma of 2010 with China and their apparent about face in 2018 further indicates that there must be a global code of ethics adhered to by all firms and nations to make Mr. Martin’s “I will produce no harmful code” possible. And global governance is a long way off.

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