Saturday, January 31, 2015

Unethical Vs Smart

Scenario 1: In the 1950s, the Irish Church in the name of cleansing this world, took in unmarried mothers, sold the fatherless children to willing American parents by forcefully making the mothers giving away their loved ones in exchange to hefty donations. The money was good for the Church, and a part of it went to the local Government as a bribe to ensure no law was ever constituted to stop this practice from continuing. So, the Church got the money, the Government got the money, the American parents adopted Irish children and all seemed fine, but the mothers lost their children unwillingly, the children felt abandoned by their own mothers not knowing why leaving them traumatized for the rest of their lives. [I got this by reading Philomena Lee]

Scenario 2: In the 1990s - I had this thought when I was in India - drivers caught speeding in their cars had a very easy way out. If the speeding fine was, say, Rs 200, one can get away by paying Rs 100 as a bribe to the cop. So the driver loses Rs 100 but its better than losing Rs 200. The cop gets richer by Rs 100. For the driver, Rs 100 didn’t matter much, so its ok. For the cop, Rs 100 mattered a lot, so it was a great way of making extra money on top of a meager salary. The only compromise was that the Government wasn’t getting its money due to speeding drivers. And, of course, the rich speeding drivers did not bother about getting caught anymore because they knew how to get around it by greasing their cop-captors and hence continued speeding. The biggest compromise was that speeding, at times, led to accidents.

Scenario 3: A software X made by Vendor A is perfect for the project that I am working on currently in USA. However, Vendor A is not competent enough to deliver a near-zero code quality and on time. Another software Y is being used by Vendor B, which is not actually fit for this project, yet can be tweaked to be used. So, the question was asked to the project technical lead: Which is the right software for this project and who should execute it? It just so happens that the technical lead for the project is from Vendor B. So, although he knows that software Y is not perfect for the project, he gives his recommendation to go with Vendor B due to faster time-to-market and good code quality. But the underlying essence of the recommendation is self propaganda and profit for Vendor B. More revenue and higher profit for Vendor B means better bonus and better paychecks for the technical lead himself. It’s a compromise to the project, yes, but it is a smart way of making own life better.

Foot note: In 1950s in Ireland inside a religious place, in 1990s in India with law-enforcers, in 2015 in US with elite high-grossing software companies. This small pattern shows that this feral human tendency of getting one’s own way at the cost of something (or someone) else has always existed and will always exist. It seems unethical, yet this is what motivational speakers refer to as ‘Being smart’, ‘Survival of the fittest’, etc.

Where to draw the line?