Reference: Seminar 3

This seminar centred around the ethical implications concerning making decisions in projects and software.

  • Accepting a contract for a project which will fail
  • Being required to use unverified data
  • Accessing commercial software through unofficial means
  • Building on existing software
  • Diverting project resources

All the different scenarios arose the need for an investigation of the ethical reasoning and decisions by related parties; however the correctness of any party's thoughts or actions cannot be awarded as 'correct' nor 'incorrect' - in part as a result of the vagueness of scenarios, but also as a result of the different circumstantial factors.

I found the first scenario (Accepting a contract for part of a project where you believe the project will fail) particularly interesting. The scenario entails a contract offer for a project which the developer believes is not feasible / achievable.

On one hand, it would be foolish to sign the contract, as ultimately all of your development work would be wasted in vanity. But in a different light, one might desperately need to sign the contract for financial reasons.

The focus of ethics in scenario lies on whether the contractor is aware of the project's (im)possibility, and/or how the developer makes known of such. In a Millian perspective, it would be unethical to agree and develop a doomed project, as the contracting company will (ultimately) suffer more financial losses from paying you.

However, should the scope of the project allow for the deliverable to be reused in another part of the project, it can be argued to be 'not unethical', yet still sly.

Personally I would probably not take the contract, as I would not want to waste effort, time and needless thought into something that will not work. The immediate appropriate action would be to reach out to the contractor and make them aware of the situation, and take things from there.

Another interesting scenario involved the development of a software package that very closely mirrors the functionality of another company's software.

Legally, it is not illegal to design a competing application, provided no trademarks or patents have been violated. I'd believe that competing applications are actually positive to both companies, as it would encourage both companies to continually improve and add features to their software.

Regarding the scenario, it was unethical of the existing company to threaten with legal action. Such a threat does not have much substance, and could instead be attributed to the company trying to remove competition from the market.

I found this scenario interesting as there are so many different commercial and free software packages that all share similar features and designs.

In the seminar we also considered the ethical implications of using drones in warfare. This was interesting as I have never considered the need to analyse the ethics of drones. To the user, drones could be considered ethical since they are remotely controlled, and therefore do not put soldiers at risk of danger. But in opposition, a drone may fall victim to hijacking or scramming; which may cause a greater risk to the operator. In discussing the ethics of drones, I came to the conclusion that drones are just tools, and should be considered like any other tool of warfare (tanks, firearms, explosives).