Yonatan Zunger in the Boston Globe:
Computer science is a field of engineering. Its purpose is to build systems to be used by others. But even though it has had its share of events which could have prompted a deeper reckoning — from the Therac-25 accidents, in which misprogrammed radiation therapy machines killed three people, up to IBM’s role in the Holocaust — and even though the things it builds are becoming as central to our lives as roads and bridges, computer science has not yet come to terms with the responsibility that comes with building things which so profoundly affect people’s lives.
Software engineers continue to treat safety and ethics as specialities, rather than the foundations of all design; young engineers believe they just need to learn to code, change the world, disrupt something. Business leaders focus on getting a product out fast, confident that they will not be held to account if that product fails catastrophically. Simultaneously imagining their products as changing the world and not being important enough to require safety precautions, they behave like kids in a shop full of loaded AK-47’s.
Source: The Boston Globe
“I will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.”
As good for a West Point cadet as for any college student or business person.
I discuss in class the five ways in which people will react when faced with an ethical dilemma:
The first three I paraphrase from a book by Albert Hirschman. The other two I picked up from research sources, as well as, sadly, my own experience.
The challenge for managers is to identify the behaviors and events that are symptomatic of these reactions, and to establish that said reactions are their cause.
|Duke University’s business school recently announced that 34 of its first-year M.B.A. students will be expelled, suspended or awarded failing grades for cheating on a take-home examination in a required class.
|The incident was the largest ever reported in the history of the business school, currently tied for No. 12 in the nation, according to U.S. News.
|Reaction to the scandal has tended to fall into two categories.
|One might be called the Enron analysis: Business students, like business leaders in capitalist America, see themselves as living in a dog-eat-dog world where competition is cutthroat and any means of succeeding, no matter how unethical by conventional standards, is justified–if they don’t get caught.
|The other reaction might be called “It’s Not Really Cheating.”
|“If you found somebody to help you write an exam, in our view that’s a sign of an inventive person who gets stuff done.”
Honor codes, multiple versions of exams and turnitin.com are no “functional substitute” for the one missing ingredient: an internalized sense of honesty.