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

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.

Don Gotterbarn

Don Gotterbarn has extensive experience both in academia and software systems developer, working on systems for the U.S. Navy, the Saudi Arabian Navy, vote-counting machines, and missile defence.

He has spent several decades promoting responsible computing practices, including as director of the Software Engineering Ethics Research Institute and as 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 like NSA, the Australian Department of Defense, and was a visiting scientist Carnegie Mellon’s Software Engineering Institute. He led the 2018 update of the ACM Code of Ethics and the development of the IEEE/ACM Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice. These contributions to responsible computing have resulted in him be awarded the ACM Outstanding Contribution Award (2005), the International Society for Ethics and Information Technology Joseph Weizenbaum Award (2010), and the ACM Presidential Award (2018).