Tag Archives: codes of conduct

Look! Computer Professionals Have An Ethics Code!

A new Code of Ethics was recently released by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), a professional organization for programmers and technology companies that has aimed to set the tone for ethics in the industry for decades. Its previous ethics code was last updated in 1992, before social media, e-commerce, widespread GPS tracking, the epidemic pf network hacking, bots, trolls, artificial intelligence, and the proliferation of wired cameras on store fronts, house entryways, and family cars, just to name a few of the ominous new developments that has made expanding technology the single greatest ethical challenge in the history of mankind. Most professional codes of ethics have not kept pace with technology, but for a computer organization to be so far behind is embarrassing.

The ACM committee surveyed the international association’s approximately 100,000 members as part of its process. The result is a list of principles and guidelines rather than rules: there is no enforcement mechanism. Nor is there any way to force members to read the thing, much less use it. I’ll say this: the code is ambitious. For example, the Code addresses”The Terminator’s” Skynet scenario, urging members  to take “extraordinary” care to avoid the perils of artificial intelligence, and robots that learn from experience and modify their own actions without the need for re-programming by a human being.

The new code addresses the Big Data ethics issue, and holds that tech companies should collect only the minimum amount of personal information necessary for a task, protect it from unauthorized use, and give users the opportunity to give informed consent regarding their data’s use. This and other provisions in the Code I would mark as “aspirational,” or perhaps “cover” or even “pie in the sky.” Without enforcement, such “rules” amount to lip service at best, deception at worst.

As with most ethics codes, this one indulges in convenient vagueries that purport to give guidance, but really don’t. For example, the Code’s “first principle” states that  the primary obligation of all computer professionals is to “to use their skills for the benefit of society, its members, and the environment surrounding them.” And who determines THAT pray tell? The technicians who made Skynet thought that it would be a boon to humanity, and it ended up destroying humanity. “Benefits” is the most subjective of concepts. Similarly, the code exhorts the technical community to mitigate the negative effects of technologies they are responsible for, and if that can’t be done, perhaps to even  refrain from marketing some products.

Sure.

To help companies and tech workers apply the ethical code’s principles, ACM is launching an“Integrity Project,” which will produce case studies about particular ethical dilemmas, and an “Ask an Ethicist” advice column.

I’m available.

 

7 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Science & Technology, The Internet, U.S. Society, Workplace

A Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck Special: Roman Polanski’s Wife Authors An Unethical Quote For The Ages!

The feminist and her husband

Some background is in order.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts And Sciences invited 928 artists  to join the Academy in a rough equivalent of packing the Supreme Court. The idea is to get nominees and winners of Academy Awards that will be sufficiently “diverse”—merit is not the primary concern here—to avoid criticism from minority activist groups of all kinds, colors and agendas, as future Academy Awards honor tribes and agendas, rather than, you know, movies. What fun.

The Academy also kicked director Roman Polanski out, only a few decades after he was convicted of raping a juvenile actress and fled the country, as it installed (in December)  a new code of conduct for its members now that sexual harassment is officially (but not actually) taboo in the film industry, thanks to Harvey. We are told that the Academy consulted experts and ethicists. Really? For this is boilerplate junk:

“The Academy is categorically opposed to any form of abuse, harassment or discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, age, religion, or nationality. If any member is found by the Board of Governors to have violated these standards or to have compromised the integrity of the Academy by their actions, the Board of Governors may take any disciplinary action permitted by the Academy’s bylaws, including suspension or expulsion.”

Academy CEO Dawn Hudson emailed all members last week, reiterating:

“Academy membership is a privilege offered to only a select few within the global community of filmmakers. In addition to achieving excellence in the field of motion picture arts and sciences, members must also behave ethically by upholding the academy’s values of respect for human dignity, inclusion, and a supportive environment that fosters creativity. There is no place in the academy for people who abuse their status, power or influence in a manner that violates recognized standards of decency.”

All 8,427 members will be expected to abide by the new guidelines with “will be” the key phrase. Obviously many, many of the current members have violated—are violating, probably will violate—these ill-defined standards. Why has Polanski been singled out for expulsion, and not, for example, Casey Affleck? Where was due process? Why was Polanski punished for conduct that occurred long, long before the standards were announced? How is that fair?

Forget it, Jake..it’s Hollywood. Still, Polanski is suing the Academy, and he has a good case.

Then, inexplicably, or perhaps too explicably, the Academy invited French actress Emmanuelle Seigner to join its membership. She is Polanski’s wife. Is she a major artist, a significant artist, a worthy member? Hardly. Is there any good reason she should have been invited, other than the fact that she is female, and Men Bad/Women Good is the current motto in Progressive Land, and that she would provide the fugitive director of “Rosemary’s Baby” a way to have influence in the Academy without embarrassing it? Continue reading

16 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Gender and Sex, Popular Culture, Professions, Romance and Relationships

Ten Further Thoughts On The “The Taunting Girls Softball Team”

Well! I returned from my seminar to find an excellent discussion underway regarding this Morning’s Ethics Warm-up, wholly devoted to the Virginia girls softball team that was hammered mercilessly for the raised middle fingers of six teammates to send off their vanquished foes in the semi-finals. Here are some further thoughts after reading the comments:

1. There is no question that the conduct of the girls concerned the game, the sport, and the League. They were in uniform. The message directed the “up yours” gesture to the other team. This is not a case where personal expression via social media was punished by an outside authority. Ethics Alarms has been profuse in its rejections of efforts by schools to punish students for their language, ideas or other expression on platforms like Facebook and Snapchat. Those are clearly, in my view, abuses of power, parental authority and free expression. This is not like such cases in any way. If a cheerleader squad, wearing the uniforms, colors and emblems of a school, behaved like these girls, punishment by the school would be appropriate, right up to the “death sentence” of dissolving the squad.

2. Would the reaction to the photo be different if it were a boy’s team? I just don’t think so.

3. The comparison has been made to the earlier post about Matt Joyce, a major league player, being suspended by the league for a comment made to one fan during a game in a heated exchange. For the life of me, I cannot figure out what anyone would think is similar about the two episodes, the primary difference being the fact that in one case, an adult was disciplined for professional misconduct on the field of play, and in the other, children were disciplined for breaching conduct their sport and organization exists in part to teach, reinforce and convey. The punishment of the player was $60,000 in lost income for a single word, not broadcast via social media. The team was not punished except to have to play without his services for two games, but then it was not colorably a team offense by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t even want to think about what an MLB team would do to six players who, in uniform, made the same gesture the girls did to “our fans.” They might all get released. Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Leadership, Social Media, Sports

From The “How Often Can Something Like This Happen In An Ethical Profession?” Files: The Art Teacher’s Meltdown

I know a lot of teachers get angry with me for my increasing certitude that they are in an unethical profession with some ethical members (like them), rather than an ethical profession with isolated unethical exceptions. This incident supports my critical views. Unless mental illness is involved, an adult doesn’t belong to a profession with well-defined standards and ethics rules and act like this.

At W.H. Adamson High School in Dallas, Texas, art students were treated to an epic meltdown by their teacher, Payal Modi, who screamed “Die!” and shot President Trump’s image on the screen with a water gun as students watched his inauguration on TV.  A student caught this on video, and Modi, who was proud of the planned display, posted it to her Instagram account.

This is more political indoctrination the classroom, which educators not today only tolerate but nurture. A teacher modelling violence toward any individual, but especially the President of The United States, in front of students, is such a stunning breach of professional ethics that no teacher should  have the idea even flicker across her mind. Payal Modi planned it.  A teacher who behaves like this cannot be trusted with students. A teacher like Modi calls into question everyone and every institution connected with her.

Adamson High School assistant principal Bobby Nevels confirmed that Modi shot the squirt gun at the TV, during class and in front of students. It is six days later. Why does she have a job? Why has the school not made a public apology? Why hasn’t the teachers’ union condemned her actions?

In eight years, no teacher did anything displaying close to this level of hostility and disrespect to President Obama. What do you think the reaction would have been by a school district if one had? Would the official position be, as Nevels’ was, “The district will not comment on personnel issues.” How about reassuring parents and the public that the district recognizes that this isn’t just a personnel issue, but an incident that calls into question the integrity of the education system and the  teaching profession? Modi is the product of an unethical culture that is rotting public education from within.

Is there a specific Teachers Code of Conduct provision, enforced and universal, that would guide a teacher not to do something this outrageous? The NEA has a Code, but there is no enforcement mechanism. There is also no prohibition against demonstrating hostility and disrespect toward public figures, or engaging in violent displays in class. Here are the provisions relevant to Modi’s meltdown: Continue reading

34 Comments

Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Professions

Economists Start Getting Serious About Ethics

Charles Fergusen’s documentary about the 2008 financial collapse, “Inside Job”, chronicled the maze of deceit, conflicts of interest, greed, recklessness and self-serving maneuvers across multiple professions and sectors of the economy that led to the meltdown. Among the professions that were implicated in the account was that of economists, who in many cases advised Congress and others regarding economic policies without disclosing their own ties to special interests and various players in the drama. The debacle was a severe blow to the credibility of economists as a group and economics as a discipline. Many have since called for the profession to put in place conflicts of interest rules to guide practitioners and to build public trust.

For my part, I was surprised to learn that there was not such a code already in place. As a lawyer, I am  spoiled—the legal profession, as with judges, doctors, researchers, psychiatrists, accountants, legislators and government workers, has recognized the need for formal ethics guidelines for a very long time. The number of fields without ethics codes continues to amaze me, although one of those professions is…ethics.

Economics, however, is making strides. At its annual meeting in Chicago last week, the American Economic Association  issued  principles for disclosure of potential conflicts of interest and conflicts related to published academic papers. Here they are: Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Business & Commercial, Finance, Professions, Research and Scholarship