Should Data Scientists Adhere to a Hippocratic Oath?

A growing amount of my time is being spent countering Silicon Valley spin:

Aral Balkan argues that an ethics code like that drafted this week could actually worsen societal harms caused by technology. He fears it will be used by corporations as a signal of virtue, while they continue business as usual. “What we should be exploring is how we can stop this mass farming of human data for profit…”

@aral Actually, there already exists such an oath (see Archimedean Oath here [1]). I guess it is more or less well known depending on the country, but when I finished my MSc, my former university proposed us to signed it.


@Bromind Ah, would they ever use that, given it starts with “I shall practice for the good of mankind, respecting human rights” :)

@aral Supposing you are a proud newly graduated student, still having faith in human kind, I think most people would swear. Imho, universities should promote it, not companies: Hippocratic Oath works pretty well because doctors swear before they enter private companies.

@aral Software Engineering as a profession has a liability issue -- namely there doesn't appear to be any.

If a PE's dam collapses, there can be criminal repercussions and at the very least they can have their license revoked so they can no longer practice their profession.

If a SE's software shows gross security negligence or unethical behavior, nothing happens.

Until the SE takes on personal liability for their decisions they is no real backbone behind them pushing back against employers.


> how we can stop this mass farming of human data for profit

this question seems analogous to "how do we stop microwave ovens from becoming more common"

it's technology

it usually can't be stopped, it can only be bent

in the history of humanity there have been very few examples of a technology that "stopped"

the closest you're going to get is war crime stuff like mustard gas that became off limits as an option

that's about it

this doesn't dissolve lungs, so it's gonna keep growing

@sydneyfalk Modern technology works by collecting data. True. We are not going to change that. Also true.

The question is who owns and controls the data and technology by which it is gathered, analysed, and acted upon?

If the answer is corporations, we have a feudalism.

If the answer is us as individuals, there is no problem. We have a system compatible with human rights and democracy.

Technology is not an objective vector from past to future; it’s character is shaped by ideology & funding.


ah! so the "for profit" was the issue, my mistake and apologies

(I mean, that'll be difficult but I suspect it isn't quite impossible ^_^)

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