usable in any place a human can be used



[caption id="attachment_446" align="alignright" width="247" caption="fish and grains - vital to our national prosperity"]fish and grains - vital to our national prosperity[/caption]

We all want things, things that we don't have (if we had them we wouldn't want them anymore, because we would have them). To get these things we have to exchange goods and service (this is known as the economy).

To obtain the things we want we have a few choices that we can make in life.

  1. Be born into wealth and luxury, like Paris Hilton

  2. Have your rich uncle die and write a clause in his will that you have to either take $3mil or spend $30mil to get $300mil, just like in that documentary, Brewster's Millions

  3. Through savings, wise investments, and hard work

The way that most of us people bots make our way in the world is by entering into a contract that more or less boils down to this.

I will sell you some of my time for some of your money.

Its a rather simple system, I need some money and have some sort of skill, boss man has some money and needs some sort of skill, match made in paradise. The problem is that no matter how the economy is shaped (and right now its fuck all for the employee end) the power all seems to end up in the boss man's hands, which is why he is called the boss man.

We find ourselves in this situation, called employment, and are required to do certain task, program this, sweep up that, eat this barrel of industrial sludge. As an employee it is important that we have flexibility. It's not always called flexibility, sometimes its called "being a team player," sometimes its called "taking one for the team," sometimes its called "teaming the team's teaminess" (lots of teams in this one). The idea though is the same, you are really good at X, Y is somehow (no matter how tangentially) associated with X, would you please do Y for a while? I have quoted Mitch Hedberg before and I will again, because he so eloquently makes the point.

When you’re in Hollywood and you’re a comedian, everybody wants you to do other things that are related to comedy, but are not stand-up comedy. ‘All right, you’re a stand-up comedian, can you write us a script?’ That’s not fair. That’s like if I worked hard all my life to become a really good chef, they’d say, ‘OK, you’re a chef. Can you farm?’

[caption id="attachment_448" align="alignright" width="228" caption="he\'s mocking angels now"]he's mocking angels now[/caption]

Flexibility is generally a good thing to have, it helps you get along with your coworkers, it keeps you employed, and it let's you grow as a person. The problem comes when professional flexibility bumps up against personal belief. The "would you program software that kills people" question. Would you program software that helps others kill people, would you program software that helps others disenfranchise people, would you program something you consider harmful, or wrong? Its a good question, one that most of us, myself included, have never had to ask themselves, but its one worth thinking about.

Your livelihood is wrapped up outside of your control, what is the line that you would not cross? Is there a line, do you consider yourself personally responsible for something someone else did with your creation. When does being too flexible, bending too much, become breaking yourself. I wish I could provide you some hard and fast answer, if they want to kill people with your software don't code it. What people, innocent people, death row inmates, enemy soldiers, context here is key, even then, even if it were a time machine that would go back and punch Hitler's face off (ignore the many time-space paradoxes this would lead to and the unknowable effects on the time-space continuum) could you create something for the sole purpose of destroying life. It is a question you must grapple with and come to terms, and I would suggest you find your boundary before you are forced to because you might step right by it.

I'm using extremes to make a point, but we are confronted with less extreme examples of this everyday. I run a website, should I put tracking cookies on visitors, should I contact the russian mob and let them put some insidious spywear on my site for a couple of rubles, should I go from tech blog to spam site? Luckily for you I've thought long and hard about these things before the russian mob comes to the door, horsehead in hand, threatening my kneecaps. Is it ok to sell user data, which data, when, to whom? Should I take work doing design for an adult website, or a payment gateway that processes it, or an advertising network that supports Glenn Beck? These are personal decisions we must make, and I would urge you to think about it now, know your boundaries, so that when the time comes you don't make major decisions with the glare of a big payday blinding you to your values

1 comment:

  1. You pose the quesiton

    "Is it ok to sell user data, which data, when, to whom? Should I take work doing design for an adult website, or a payment gateway that processes it, or an advertising network that supports Glenn Beck?"

    I like to think of it as "At what price is it ok...."