Developer shares experience of first code-related ethical conflict (Codenewbie podcast)

*Cross-posting in classroom activities, opportunity to use Bill’s experience to design a simulation for CS students.

  • What sorts of questions should students be asking when presented with technical/design outline?
  • How do you encourage/empower students to speak up in this situation?


Bill Sourour was twenty-one when he was asked to build a website for a pharmaceutical company. It was a quiz that asked users to select symptoms so that it could recommend a drug as a possible solution. But for almost every option the user selected, the quiz would recommend the same drug. It didn’t feel right, but when Bill later heard that a side effect of the drug was depression and a young woman who had taken that drug had committed suicide, it felt very, very wrong. Bill tells us the story of his first code-related ethical conflict, his thoughts on the role of ethics in coding, and how the incident affects how he approaches code today.


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