DIGHUM-Lectures: Software can do Wrong: On Ethics in Agile Software Engineering
16. Mai 2023
Zoom | meeting: 9638 9928 143, password: 0dzqxqiy

DIGHUM-Lectures: Software can do Wrong: On Ethics in Agile Software Engineering

The initiative DIGHUM lectures started with regular online events to discuss the different aspects of Digital Humanism. The bidt and the TU Wien are cooperation partners for DigHum Lecture Series.


Speaker: Alexander Pretschner (Technical University Munich & bidt)
Moderator: Carlos Ghezzi (Politecnico di Milano, Italy)

Software can do wrong, as prominently witnessed by Cambridge Analytica and defeat devices in the automotive industries. But what is wrong, and who is responsible?

As software continues to permeate our lives, this question, also at the core of the ongoing debate about regulation of AI in Europe, becomes increasingly relevant – for engineers, for companies, for educators, for regulators, and for society as a whole. One prominent approach today is the formulation of codes of conduct. Unfortunately, a common perception is that these catalogs of values specifically fail to provide useful guidance to engineers. This is because the respective values tend to conflict with each other (for instance, privacy vs. transparency), and because software and software engineering are fundamentally context-specific, which makes the existence of a universally applicable set of values very unlikely.

As a consequence, ethical deliberations need to be embedded into software development activities in a project-specific manner, and not just for AI-based systems. As agile development methodologies fundamentally rest on the concepts of short-term planning, empowerment, incrementality, and learning, they turn out to be particularly well suited for embedding ethical deliberations into the development process. In this talk, we first argue why this is the case. In a second step, we present our schema for ethical deliberation in agile processes, the result of a long-standing cooperation between software engineers and (business) ethicists at the Bavarian Research Institute for Digital Transformation. We will close by discussing the applicability in industry and education.

About the Series

A roughly bi-weekly seminar offers presentations and panels from worldwide thought leaders. It is typically held on Tuesday afternoons at 17:00 CET.

The bidt and the TU Wien are cooperation partners for DigHum Lecture Series.

Digital Humanism deals with the complex relationship between man and machine. It acknowledges the potential of Informatics and IT. At the same time, it points to related apparent threats such as privacy violations, ethical concerns with AI, automation, and loss of jobs, and the ongoing monopolization on the Web.

For this reason, a new initiative — DIGHUM lectures — started with regular online events to discuss the different aspects of Digital Humanism.

We will have one or more speakers on a specific topic followed by a discussion, or panel discussions, depending on topic and speakers. The exact dates will be announced at least two weeks before.