Archive for June 9, 2017

Take the Computer Scientists’ Oath

My colleague Beth Mynatt (on the right above) gave a commencement address at one of her alma maters, and came up with the great idea of a Computer Scientists Oath.  I’m quoting it below in its entirely, but recommend the article for more context on her oath and her speech.  I am teaching ethics (“CS4001 Computers and Society”) for the first time this summer in Barcelona. I hadn’t realized that most students in my classes haven’t thought about these issues — I didn’t realize the bubble in which I live (e.g., Human-Centered Computing PhD program, a School of Interactive Computing) where we do talk about such things. I agree with Beth for the need of such an oath, and I’m proud of her efforts to create one.  Barbara Ericson sent me an Engineering Oath that is particularly aimed at Facebook and other Silicon Valley engineers — some of these ideas could influence a future Computer Scientists Oath.

During her remarks, Mynatt lamented that the field of computer science lacks a professional oath to bind them together at this important moment as they embark on their careers. In the spirit of the medical field’s Hippocratic oath, she challenged the graduates to join her and take the following oath, as a formal recognition of the importance of our field to the wellbeing of society, and our collective responsibility to fulfill our obligations:

Today, I join the ranks of computer scientists worldwide. 

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings.

I will design and build computing systems that enhance the quality of daily life for individuals and for society.

I will protect the dignity of users and others affected by computing systems, respecting the diversity of all cultures, and safeguarding against threats to health and safety.

I will respect the privacy and rights of all people and recognize the special role I have in judiciously collecting, storing and using their information, and creating systems that aim to shape their behavior.

I will work for fair wages; honorably guarding my reputation and my colleagues in our work practices, while respecting the intellectual contributions of others.I will improve the public understanding of computing and its consequences.

May I always act so, as to preserve the finest traditions of my field, and may I long experience the joy of inventing the future through my endeavors.

Source: Department of Computer Science at North Carolina State University

June 9, 2017 at 7:00 am 7 comments


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