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Michael Feldman <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Michael Feldman <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 3 Aug 2002 12:00:46 -0400
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[said Ron]

> >Well, yes, but in what sorts of domains do you think that will
> >happen? Big time lawsuits won't happen until either
> >
> >1. lots of people die or are seriously disabled, or
> >
> >2. REALLY big bucks are lost by businesses
> I'm more inclined to think it will be the latter.  And it doesn't
> necessarily take a dramatic failure that you or I would "obviously"
> consider heinous.  All it takes is substantial loss of revenue, a legal
> firm willing to fight for the damages, and a jury that goes along with the
> argument.

Well, exactly. I've seen no evidence yet of this happening.
> >So I ask again: what kind of outrage do you envision? What kinds
> >of programs must screw up badly enough to piss off the public?
> Although I am not nearly as cynical as you, I will agree public apathy,
> especially in the U.S., is appallingly high.

I don't think I'm all that cynical; I just haven't seen any evidence
of public outrage about computer stuff, except a desire to punish
obvious crime (like kids who write viruses, etc.). I think it's
as much a problem of ignorance as of apathy.
> But a large part of the problem is simply a matter of education.  That's
> where we, in particular organizations like ACM, come in or should.  If we
> were doing our job, we would be educating the public on these issues and
> fanning the flames of outrage, on a daily basis.

Well, I don't think it's realistic to expect ACM, a huge (~100,000-member)
and diverse organization, to be fanning the flames of anything. Such
an organization has to serve too many constituencies to "take sides".

> I'll also have to admit that, if anything, "we" (ACM) presently are doing
> just the opposite - aiding and abetting irresponsible practitioners.

By omission, not by commission. ACM could start by enforcing its own
ethics code. So could IEEE. But there's not much incentive for ACM
to do so - even the ACM membership (as a whole) doesn't seem to be
outraged by poor software or stupid management decisions.
> I just believe that HAS to change.
> But who can say how or when it will?

> Certainly nothing significant is being done, that I can see, among
> institutions of higher education, which one would hope would be leading the
> way in such an issue.

Well, the closest we come, on a wide scale, is the requirement in
CSAC-accredited programs to teach professional ethics. I know from
personal experience (my department's BS is CSAC-accredited, and I'm
also a CSAC program evaluator), that the requirement is taken
seriously, but at best it's a fairly weak requirement. And as
we know, only a small fraction of CS programs (~200, or only about
1/3 of the *good* ones) are CSAC-accredited.

Some people on the IEEE-CS side of things are pressing strongly for
individual licensure of software engineers. After years of following
the debate over this, I still wonder whether it would make much
> But that is a discussion we've already had and do not need to reopen.

I'd still like to see someone's thoughts on the kind of software
failures that might really lead to outrage. Certainly we haven't
seen much outrage thus far.

This thread is probably getting off-topic for Team-Ada...
> sro