I agree with @Thomas_Owens and @Kurt_Guntheroth , this is overly verbose, and contains far too many stale turns of phrase. For instance, I can’t remember the last time I read “which is taken to mean” outside a lemony snicket novel; including, especially, or specifically would surely do the same job better. Additionally, far too many words may be struck without diluting its meaning.
More importantly, the code needs to start with some kind of call to action, a reminder of why it is important, something to bring a solemn mindset to the reader.
Were I to rewrite it, it would read (feel free to use, or not, after all, this is only how I would write it):
Software is at the foundation of the modern world. Software directly affects people’s lives both now, and into the future, often far past a program’s expected lifetime. Software directly impacts the very structure of our society. In order to execute this awesome responsibility, software must be built well and behave ethically, always advancing the public good. To ensure this, we provide The ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (“the Code”).
The Code is designed to support the ethical behavior of all computing professionals, including current and aspiring computing practitioners, instructors, influencers, and anyone who uses technology in an impactful way.
The Code contains fundamental ethical principles applicable to one’s conduct as a computing professional. These principles are formulated as statements of responsibility, always remembering that the public good is the primary consideration. Each principle is supplemented by guidelines to assist members in understanding and applying it.
The Code includes four sections: Section 1 outlines fundamental ethical considerations. Section 2 addresses additional, more specific considerations of professional responsibility. Section 3 pertains specifically to individuals who have a leadership role, whether in the workplace or in a volunteer professional capacity. Commitment to ethical conduct is required of every ACM member and principles involving compliance with the Code are given in Section 4.
The Code is not an algorithm for solving ethical problems, rather it is a basis for ethical decision making during the conduct of professional work. Words and phrases in a code of ethics are subject to varying interpretations, and a particular principle may conflict with other principles in various situations. Questions related to these kinds of conflicts can best be answered by thoughtful consideration of the fundamental ethical principles, understanding that the public good is the paramount consideration. The entire profession benefits when the ethical decision making process is transparent to all stakeholders. In addition, The Code may serve as a basis for judging the merit of a formal complaint pertaining to a violation of professional ethical standards.
Some editing notes:
- As mentioned above, the first paragraph has been adjusted to provide a better mindset for the reader.
- I really don’t like the “is designed to support” verbiage of the first paragraph of the second paragraph, but failed to find something to replace it with.
- The section summary is independent of the second paragraph, and should be in its own paragraph.
- The first sentence of the second paragraph doesn’t jive particularly well with the discussion of “principles formulated as responsibilities backed by guidelines”. I therefore separated it.
- When the third paragraph is combined with the part of the second paragraph referencing principles, the “extraordinary ethical responsibilities” line becomes redundant. After all, the responsibilities are statements of principle.
- I eliminated some words which hopefully won’t be missed.
@Kurt_Guntheroth I agree about the need for something shorter, Some time ago, I sat down to write an oath along those lines for software development, I would be happy to provide a copy of my current draft of it. However, I do not think that it would replace a more detailed code of ethics. An oath has to be short enough to be somewhat memorable, whereas a code of ethics can be long to provide better guidance.