Computing Professionalism: Do Good and Avoid Evil...and Why It Is Complicated to Do that in Computing

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Most computing professionals want to avoid evil and to do the right thing. But that isn't always easy. Sometimes doing the right thing exacts a difficult price from the individual professional. Other times, it is difficult to know exactly what the right thing is.

In this presentation, we will try to help with both problems. Difficulties with these two problems contribute to failed systems, derailed projects, and significant negative impacts on society. We will introduce ways to migrate these risks based on current research in computing, ethics, and psychology.

We will put this into a larger perspective by discussing the international efforts to professionalize computing. These efforts are a mixed blessing, but they point to the importance of professional ethics in computing.

Duration: 60 minutes

Presenter: Don Gotterbarn, Software Engineering Ethics Research Institute; ACM Committee on Professional Ethics
Don Gotterbarn, working as an academic and software systems developer, has been active over several decades promoting responsible computing practices. As a consultant he worked on systems including ones for the U.S. Navy, the Saudi Arabian Navy, vote counting machines, and missile defence. Don is the Director of the Software Engineering Ethics Research Institute and a visiting professor at the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility in England. He has taught at institutions like the University of Southern California, at government agencies such as the NSA, and was a visiting scientist Carnegie Mellon’s Software Engineering Institute.

Don chairs the ACM Committee on Professional Ethics, and was instrumental in the development of IEEE/ACM Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice. With support from the NSF, he and colleagues developed a CASE tool for discovering and anticipating the ethical impacts of a software development effort. His contribution to computing ethics is recognised by various professional bodies (e.g. ACM Outstanding Contribution award 2005; and Joseph Weizenbaum award 2010 from the International Society for Ethics and Information Technology).

Moderator: Keith W. Miller, University of Missouri – St. Louis
Keith W. Miller is the Orthwein Endowed Professor for Lifelong Learning in the Sciences in the College of Education at the University of Missouri – St. Louis. His Ph.D. is in computer science, and his research interests include computer ethics, software testing, and online learning. Google Scholar lists 3350 citations to Dr. Miller’s published work.

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