The scientists who designed nuclear bombs weren’t assholes. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the head of the nuclear bomb project, was a scientist’s scientist with left-leaning liberal political views.
From what I’ve read, it sounds like working on the atomic bomb was a dope time. You had a cool boss, unlimited money, job prestige, passionate coworkers and really interesting problems to solve at the intersection of physics, chemistry, metallurgy and bomb theory. You probably also got free lunch.
And then your work ships, and you realize you’ve fucked the world.
Will the internet of the next decade be an empowering force for human progress (like nuclear power) or for crimes against society (like nuclear bombs)?
Slapping Ethics in the Face 🙋🏻
<Insert something inspiring and uplifting here>, like: as designers and engineers, we have a moral imperative to build software that doesn’t mislead, divide and abuse people and society.
Duh. Of course we do. Nobody wakes up wanting to make shitty things for garbage people.
Whether it’s fascist regimes, the NSA, Facebook, or the Kardashians, bringing out the worst in humanity will always be easy money. There’ll always be developers that corporations and governments can throw money, prestige or interesting problems at and make what they want.
These developers aren’t assholes either. Some will be new to the profession, some will want the perceived safety or legitimacy of a large corporation, some will just really need the money. I’ve been that developer, I’ve made banner ads. I’ve seen some shit.
An Alternative to Outrage 🌚
You’ve got more power than you think to build what you want to exist.
Most programming is just turning text into another kind of text. With the helpful tools and services we’ve got today, writing code is less gross than it’s ever been (maybe, possibly, even fun).
There’s still so much good software to make:
- We’re still bad at connecting diverse people, with diverse perspectives, in meaningful and respectful ways.
- We’re still bad at building quality software for professionals. Ever used Blackboard? Quickbooks? Anything made by Oracle? Pretty much every human with a job is forced to use crap software to do their jobs.
Cash Rules Everything Around Me 💰
But how do we fund the good stuff? That’s also something we’re bad at.
Ideally if you’re solving a real problem for real people they’d pay you. But that’s really hard for some industries, like education, where your users (e.g. teachers) are cash strapped, and the organizations they work for only buy through RFPs and sales teams.
What’s a little guy to do?
On Patreon, I give 1041uuu a dollar a month, they make cool art. It’s pretty simple.
What would a Patreon for small software makers look like I wonder?