Professional Responsibility in Computer Science

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Professional Responsibility in Computer Science

By | June 2006
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In Donald Gotterbarn's article, "Informatics and Professional Responsibility," he argues that "although informatics has been undergoing a rapid development, there has been no corresponding development in the concept of responsibility as it applies to computing practitioners" (107). Gotterbarn believes that computer professionals should be perfect and are responsible for any effects caused by their coding. I disagree with Gotterbarn on this matter. In this essay, I will show that Gotterbarn's thoughts and beliefs on professional responsibility in computer ethics are unreasonable and therefore should not be applied. Gotterbarn begins his article with examples of problems that resulted from software developers. In 1991, there was a major telephone outage that occurred because three lines of code were changed by a computer programmer in a signaling program. Since it seemed like such a small change, it was not tested. Also, a New Jersey inmate was able to escape because when he removed his electronic anklet it called a second computer, but received a busy signal and did not call back at all. The inmate murdered someone while free.

Gotterbarn says that since the early days, "computer practitioners sought immunity from blame for their failure to develop reliable systems" (108). He says that programmers that made mistakes in their programs called them "bugs" in the code instead of accepting responsibility for the error. Gotterbarn states that, "If the specifications are precise and the client cannot be used to exempt the developer from responsibility, the fact that ‘no program can be proven to be error free' is used to excuse critical system failures" (108).

Gotterbarn created an example to examine about professional responsibility. In his example, he states that three people are involved in creating a more efficient accounting system for a country that has a very complex system and wastes taxpayer's money. A consultant, a manager, and a software engineer created...

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