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CS290 – Some Issues In Ethics John Knight Department of Computer Science London Ambulance Service, 1992 Mars Climate Orbiter, 1999 Ariane 5, 1996 Therac 25, 1985-87 Mars Polar Lander, 1999 Korean Air 801, 1997 Software In Operation A Speckled Past Launch Vehicles Titan 4A

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cs290 some issues in ethics

CS290 – Some Issues In Ethics

John Knight

Department of Computer Science

software in operation a speckled past

London Ambulance Service, 1992

Mars Climate Orbiter, 1999

Ariane 5, 1996

Therac 25, 1985-87

Mars Polar Lander, 1999

Korean Air 801, 1997

Software In OperationA Speckled Past
launch vehicles
Launch Vehicles
  • Titan 4A
  • August 17, 1998
  • Kennedy Space Center
  • $1,200,000,000
korean air flight 801 747 300
Korean Air Flight 801(747-300)

Controlled flight into terrain

228 killed

Guam, August 6, 1997

incident sequence

KA Cargo’s Perceived Altitude

33,900 ft.

Incident Sequence







33,500 ft.

Cloud Layer

British Airways 027



31,500 ft.

Korean Air Cargo

there are plenty of disasters
There Are Plenty Of Disasters
  • Financial systems
  • Medical systems
  • Transportation systems:
    • Cars
    • Aircraft
    • Trains
  • Communications systems
  • Consumer products
ethical areas
Ethical Areas
  • Personal behavior:
    • Acting unethically on technical information
  • Professional behavior:
    • Acting unethically in developing artifacts
personal behavior
Personal Behavior
  • Using software defects to:
    • Break into computer systems
    • Steal funds or other assets
    • Effect denial of service
  • Intentionally installing defects:
    • That facilitate unethical acts, e.g. trapdoors
    • That act if prescribed circumstances arise, e.g., if your name is not in the payroll file
  • Clearly all illegal
professional behavior
Professional Behavior
  • What are your responsibilities as a professional?
  • Two areas:
    • Personal acts
    • Advising others
  • Your acts are reflected in the artifacts that you create
  • Your advice is followed by others
  • Unethical behavior in these areas is not illegal
consequences of failure
Consequences of Failure
  • Injury or loss of life
  • Environmental damage
  • Damage to or loss of equipment
  • Financial loss:
    • Theft
    • Useless or defective mass-produced equipment
    • Loss of production capacity or service
    • Loss of business reputation, customer base
consequences of failure15
Consequences of Failure
  • Direct—device fails and causes injury
  • Indirect—defective support tool leads to device that fails
  • Combinations of losses:
    • Immediate damage to equipment
    • Subsequent loss of service
    • Subsequent loss of business reputation
    • Subsequent law suits
what do we know
What Do We Know?
  • We know a lot but not everything
  • More importantly:

You don’t know everything

  • Nobody does
  • You must learn what you are capable of doing and what you are not capable of doing
  • It is OK to say “I am not qualified to do that”
examples of things you probably don t know
Examples of Things You Probably Don’t Know
  • Distributed transaction data processing
  • Dependable storage (polyphase commit protocols)
  • Testing specialized systems
  • Concurrent systems programming
  • Secure systems development
  • Hard real-time system design
  • Achieving ultra dependability
  • Software safety
  • Agreeing to:
    • Infeasible schedules
    • Unrealistic requirements
    • Unattainable dependability requirements
  • Using inappropriate technology:
    • Process
    • Tools
    • Assessment
using inappropriate technology
Using Inappropriate Technology
  • Process:
    • Failing to consider and to mitigate development risk
    • Depending on the Waterfall process
    • Failing to use proper configuration management
    • Failing to employ proven techniques such as inspections
  • Tools:
    • Failing to use formal languages where appropriate
    • Failing to use languages with strong type checking
  • Assessment
    • Relying on testing
    • Relying on software reliability models
american society of mechanical engineers code of ethics
American Society of Mechanical Engineers—Code of Ethics

1.Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public in the performance of their professional duties.

2.Engineers shall perform services only in the areas of their competence.

3.Engineers shall continue their professional development throughout their careers and shall provide opportunities for the professional and ethical development of those engineers under their supervision.

4. Engineers shall act in professional matters for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees, and shall avoid conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflicts of interest.

5.Engineers shall build their professional reputation on the merit of their services and shall not compete unfairly with others.

6. Engineers shall associate only with reputable persons or organizations.

7.Engineers shall issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.

8.Engineers shall consider environmental impact in the performance of their professional duties.

national society of professional engineers
National Society of Professional Engineers

1. Hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public.

2. Perform services only in areas of their competence.

3. Issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.

4. Act for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees.

5. Avoid deceptive acts.

6. Conduct themselves honorably, responsibly, ethically, and lawfully so as to enhance the honor, reputation, and usefulness of the profession.

software engineering code of ethics
Software Engineering Code Of Ethics


should software engineers be licensed
Write a two-page, single spaced paper, include at least 10 refs

Issues to consider:

What are the rules now for software engineers in the U.S?

What are the rules in other countries?

How are software professional standards monitored & enforced in U.S?

What are the professional consequences of the incidents we looked at?

How does that compare with other engineering disciplines like Mechanical Engineering?

Should things be changed for software engineering? If so:

What approach might be developed for software?

What might a licensing system look like?

How would the licensing system be enforced?

Should Software Engineers Be Licensed?