Nowadays I am seeing a lot of articles which talk about ethics of/in software. That made me wonder, what happened to the world? Does everyone become saints and angels except Saint IGNUcius? Most of these are coming from the OEM/open source software world. It is not a surprise to me. They will do anything to make “the system” happy.
Their “ethics” are so vast that you may wonder how many “ethics” exist in this world. They worry about a lot of things in this world — things like slavery, indentured servitude, gambling, tobacco, adversely addictive behaviors, nuclear energy, warfare, weapons manufacturing, and war crimes. The list goes on. I appreciate their wide-open minds or the ability to see all these (un)ethical issues. Have they ever asked a question about why these many (un)ethical issues are occurring in this small world of humans in few millennia compared to life on Earth?
Does/should software have any ethics?
Before answering this question you first have to ask/answer, “why software?” Software programs are required for the people to run their computers or to do their computing. Software is also a product in the market. It serves its customers (called “users”). (Somebody told me that there are only two industries that call their customers “users”; one is technology companies the other are drug dealers.) Whatever. As per the market rules, sellers should be trustworthy and a seller respectful to its users. Don’t cheat. So the first level of ethics in software is how you treat your customer/user.
Now tell me, “open source” people, where do you stand on this? Tell me who respects users at an ultimate level? What is your level of care about users?
Initially, at a time when computers came into our society in India, there was lot of business adaption to it. Mostly for record-keeping, account-keeping etc. but they advertised that their firm is computerised. Since back then computers were something like an advanced ‘sci-fi’ thing. Nobody had seen it. So buying an computer and put its picture ad gave the firms a ‘selling point’.. Computerised hairdressing, computerised tea shop, computerised hospital, computerised hotel etc. Some shiny computer will be there, but all other things will be old. Customers will have to suffer from an old system, but they may get a bill from some computer. Great, right? But you may have to pay more. But they don’t tell that. You will not notice also.
From this perspective, a customer is getting very little extra benefit. So from the customer’s viewpoint it doesn’t matter whether you use computerised billing or not. Important things for a customer are what he/she gets from the product. But customers are ignorant and are easy for manipulation experts to fool. They will fall into the trap created by corporate PR. Good example for this may be soft drinks. It destroys one’s gut/intestinal health and even dental/tooth health; entire bodies might also get ruined/decayed by drinking that. Still, people are so fond of it. Cigarette, fossil fuels etc. — those kinds of things are extreme. Exxon knew that CO2 makes global warming worse and climate change faster even in the 1960s. Check what they did after that.
Now tell me, if the software engineers developing a software program respect women, does the customer get any benefits? It’s OK. No… No… It’s a great thing. It’s great that you respect women and consider all humans as equal. Thank you very much. But what user will get from it?
I want my software to serve me. So whatever ethics these “open source” people tell me about are just a PR piece of work (like cigarette and fossil fuels).
GPL as the ultimate ethical thing a software program ever gets
In 1983 a person with high ethical values asked some genuine questions about software. The result was a silent revolution in many aspects of human thought and in many disciplines. (That is his contribution to humanity. Not a few coded lines.) He made it reality — whatever he preached with great personal sacrifices.
He and his movement defined 4 rules for software. It’s commonly called the GNU General Public License (or copyleft). It gives its users full power — full control over what they buy/get. Users’ rights are the most important ethical thing for a piece of software.
So, the ultimate “ethics” of software is something like the GPL. Dear ethics preachers, tell me your ethics with respect to your own users…
Your ethics are punishing people
It is not a surprise that your ethics are punitive in nature. You are just sadists. You serve only the bosses. You target individual persons and isolate them, applying/imposing your ethics on them (him/her). You create a villain out of them and ask the community to lynch them. This is classic fascist tactics.
Political problems need a political solution. It’s not about an individual person’s set of ethics. Unethical system forces unethical behaviors. So work for system change. For that you have think and work together with all the people. You cannot solve it individually. You cannot solve it by ‘cancel culture’.
Your ethics are just a decoy
1. User friendly
For supposed care about users, people who use software, you’ve created another decoy called user friendliness. You assume that the customer is dumb, and you will do all the things that are good for the so-called ‘dumb’ users. Of course software should do its work as perfectly as possible. But that is not the only thing. You use it distract the users from their rights and also to loot them like the colonialists in the name of ‘civilising’ (as colonists did in the past centuries).
2. User rights
Like priests you are shouting a lot of “ethics”. We know that it’s a just a decoy. Just to divert away from the real ethical issues. Really ethical software empowers its users. You want to hide real ethics. Because it’s damaging your bosses’ profits. It ends your bosses’ control over users. It stops surveillance capabilities long exploited by your bosses. It destroys psychological manipulation capabilities of your bosses.
So you created a decoy. With all your media power you made it a central issue. But we know that you are frauds. You are just diverting attention of people, using these phony issues related to software. I am not saying there are no other issues in our society. But users’ freedom is the number one issue in software. Because it’s not like many other products. All other issues come only after that. Once you free the users, then you can think about other issues. So stop playing games. Stop your ‘ethicswash’.
First try to accept GPL-like licensing. Then add more ethics on top of it, if so you’ve needed.
Rulers have no right to define ethics
The same government and politicians who lynched innocent people in unending wars cannot be considered as a custodian of ethics. It is the society that ought to make a decision on what is ethical or not. Remember that the government was against freeing slaves. So no government, no companies, no organisations should define ethics and press/impose that on people. If they do it, it’ll be just a CoC, a code of censorship. Revenge, punishment and ‘cancel culture’ are themselves unethical. It’s a fascist programme.
So we have to realize these corporate tactics. Please do not be fooled those tactics. Let us unite together and fight for user’s freedom and user’s rights.
Note: This has nothing to do with Stallman’s case. It is a completely different issue. All he did (or ‘committed’) was a thought crime. He did nothing wrong. Your ‘thought police’ punished him, in oder to destroy the software freedom movement, for your bosses’ profit and power.
Appendix: Free software is not an ethical issue, it’s a users’ rights issue
Written by: Jagadees.S
Nullius in verba
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