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Computer programming is not just technical work

BMcC Translation: Monitor with Hollerith [hole][1] cards.

Service mark of Pinkerton's National Detective Agency: "We never sleep."

Computer programmers: What you are doing is not just technical work. It also has ethical and unethical dimensions. THINK whether your work may contribute to evil. The Holocaust was facilitated by IBM tabulating machines. THINK if your work can contribute to making persons' lives higher. In this latter case especially if you design computer art or games: Is what you are doing contributing to perpetuation of fandom and even banal/kitsch fantasies of neo-feudalism in flying fortresses which are not real B-17 heavy bombers, when it could contribute to raising the level of users' aspirations and lives toward Rabelaisean/Matissean humanism? Write only good code, i.e., code that is both technically and ethically honorable![2] (I (BMcC[18-11-46-503]) offer an example of ethical webart: here.)

Service mark of Pinkerton's National Detective Agency: "We never sleep."

Marshall McLuhan said that an important aspect of any technology is how it affects the pace, pattern and scale of social life: the context in which it exists. What impact does what you are doing have, both on society in general, but also on individual persons, including but not limited to yourself? For one instance: How does what you are doing affect what you yourself are doing or going to do? If it truly doesn't affect anything, what is the point of anyone spending time and energy doing it? Adolf Eichmann famously said he was just following oeders, i.e., doing what his higher management told him to do.

It is also admonitory, in assessing what is ethical and what is not, to be aware that, until the person critically adjudicates the matter, which side he or she is on -- what counts as lawful and perhaps even "ethical -- is often determined by the spatio-temporal social surround in which he or she was childreared (it could have been U.S.A. pre-Civil War South Carolina, or pre-World War II Germany, etc.). THINK: If you had been born in Germany in 1921 and your parents were National Socialists who did not mistreat you, but gave you a happy childhood, how could you not have become a Nazi yourself, and, on ethical principle, have chosen not to work programming Dehomag tab machines for "the census"?  


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  1. Cynical aside: Presumably these cards and their tabulating machines were of high enough quality as to not produce "hanging chads".
  2. Comparing the two pictures on this page is instructive for persons with any technical skill, in this case, graphic design. Both pictures are technically competent. Both serve ignoble ideals, in the one case surveillance to collect information for the objective of controlling people, in the other case processing the information thus collected to do the controlling. In the top picture, the Gestapo's prying eye collects information; in the bottom picture that eye takes a back seat to a tabulating machine that processes the date so collected, in the stage-center place of honor where The Fuhrer would normally rouse the crowd to programmatic action. The two pictures express different aspects of a unitary goal. There is a big stylistic difference between the two pictures, however: The picture at top deploys stylishly abstract ("modern") design, whereas the picture at bottom, while incorporating a couple modern design elements, primarily deploys naturalitic imagery. In other words, the top picture uses good style for bad purpose, whereas the bottom picture uses bad for bad. An ethical design artist/technician would use good for good, or, if that was not empirically possible and they did not wish to become a martyr, try to find a viable excuse to get out of doing the job.

BMcC signature seal stamp. Modelled on 18th century messenger's letter box in collection of Suntory Museum, Tokyo. Japanese write poems and prayers on slips of paper which they tie into knots like this shape although with longer legs. Prayers are often tied to branches of trees which can look like they are covered with snow. "Symbol of a symbol, image of an image, emerging from the destiny that is sinking into darkness...." (H. Broch, "The Sleepwalkers", p.648) Always remember. Add value. (This image created not later than 21 May 2003)Invenit et fecit

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2022-05-02 12:39:12