Career Opportunities

The High-Tech Career Handbook

A weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch

A High-Tech Manifesto

October 17, 2003

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If you are considering starting a high-tech career, or are already involved in one, you are on the front lines of today’s economy. Whether you are developing new hardware and software or supporting the use of technology in your company, there are some basic responsibilities that fall upon your shoulders. The future will bring more reliance on technology and your work will become more important than ever before. If you plan on riding the technology wave into the future, I would call on you to pay close attention to the areas detailed below. Your career and the welfare of those around you could depend on it.

Protect and develop your ethics

Not only do you need to pay close attention to your own ethics, but also to the ethics of those around you, particularly your superiors. While I am sure that almost all of you understand the impropriety of lying, cheating and stealing, too many high-tech workers allow their talents to be used for these purposes after the fact. If you find yourself working for a company that regularly seeks to scam its customers, you need to get out. Allowing your talents to be used for unethical purposes is just as bad as committing the unethical act yourself. Are you working for a company that engages in unethical email spam? Are they using technology to steal from others? Do you disagree with their legal, yet unethical methods? Are you aiding and abetting them with your skills? It is a simple fact that without the hands and minds of high-tech workers, many unethical activities would not be possible. It is time to stop aiding and abetting unethical people and companies who want to use technology to hurt others.

Security for everyone

If you are developing high-tech products of any sort, you need to consider security and privacy concerns at every step of the process. Hardware and software flaws that put customer and company information at risk are simply unacceptable. Software bugs that effect features like screen display or formatting are not the issue here. Rather, software flaws that allow other users to exploit a system or facilitate the creation and propagation of Worm and Virus programs are simply unacceptable. The existence of these flaws is a failure of the highest degree on the part of both the individual and the companies for whom they work. We create this technology, therefore we must take responsibility for its failures.

If you plan on having a prosperous high-tech career, then you must dedicate yourself to the assiduous pursuit of flaw-free software and hardware. It may be impossible for human beings, flawed as we are, to produce perfect software, but we do have the ability to strive for such goals. In fact, without such goals, the future of high-tech could collapse under the weight of flaws, which wreak more and more havoc as high-tech systems become more ingrained in daily life.

Privacy for Everyone

Privacy should be available to everyone equally. Your average home user should be able to protect their data as well as the largest corporation. Developing software for government and corporate use that allows them to invade the privacy and bypass the security of users is wrong. Our high-tech lives should be protected from people who would seek to exploit us, with or without our knowledge.

Corporate monitoring of Internet activities, library filtering and monitoring and a host of other surveillance activities treats the high-tech world as an unwanted step-sister to the real world. If we can enclose our private letters in an envelope, why shouldn’t our email be free from prying eyes? Must we live our online lives sending the equivalent of postcards, with our private and public business exposed to anyone and everyone? Every person should be free to decide which pieces of our lives we expose to public view and when.

Over the last decade, we have lost any presumption of privacy, largely due to advances in technology. It is time for balance to be restored. You, as high-tech workers, have the ability to effect this change. You have the skills necessary to make technology do what the people want, instead of allowing it to be applied indiscriminately. The unthinking implementation of technology has turned the world into a place where everyone is considered and treated as a criminal. Those people who consistently engage in an ethical life should be freed from the constant vigilance of the unblinking eye of technology. There are ways for technology to be used to catch criminals without treating the general populace as criminals.

Working in high-tech has become a calling in today’s world. Much like the monks of old who painstakingly copied old manuscripts, high-tech workers facilitate the movement of information in most every sector of society. This, in turn, facilitates business and society. When you decide on a high-tech career, you can either develop products and services that benefit society or further help to damage it. I want to see each and every high-tech worker in the world doing everything they can to build the best technology for the best purposes. This is one major way that you, and your high-tech career, can have a dramatic effect.


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