Nuclear Strike

Nuclear Explosion

You have just been notified that the US government has issued a nuclear strike on Paris, France and a computer program has scheduled an ICMB missile to be lauched in 10 minutes. You are a 1337 hacker and so you could easily hack into the government's network and be able to cancel the missile launch, or even divert the missile to a nuteral zone. You are aware that the impending attack will trigger a world war that will kill hundreds of thousands of people and that this could all be avoided if you were to take action.

Computer Screen

But you are a strict deontologist, and so you take no action. To abort the nuclear launch would require you to hack into system and modify it without the owner's permission. Strict deontoligical reasoning would forbid taking this action since breaking into any system violates a moral code. The SE code of ethics even says software engineers shall "(2.02.) Not knowingly use software that is obtained or retained either illegally or unethically". Strict deontological reasoning attributes virtue to an action if it adhears to a moral code, the reasoning is not concerned with the consequences of that action, even if its a nuclear war. In relm of deontology, the ends NEVER justify the means.

Source: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-deontological/#ConDeoThe

Regarding 4.04 of the SE Code

Disc With A Lock Through It

4.04 Clearly states that a ethical software engineer must “Not engage in deceptive financial practices such as bribery, double billing, or other improper financial practices.” This is a clear statement, and the following example focuses on the 'improper financial practices' aspect of it. Consider the following situation: You work for a medical software company and they have a great product that can cure cancer. It's irrelevant how this software achieves this, but it does. You are high up in the company and have access to almost anything. Recently, your sibling lost everything they had and discovered their child has cancer. They have no way to pay for the medical treatment, so they come to ask you for aid. They want you to let them use the software for free to cure their child. They promise that this is the sole use, and you understand that your company has thousands of wealthy customers who pay more thousands to use the software. Letting one person use it for free would have no real noticeable impact on the company. Do you break the rules just this once and save your sibling's child?

The deontologist would have a simple answer for this, and it would be no. Why? Simply because you are breaking the rules and going against the SE Code by stealing from your company, even if it means saving someones life and causing very little harm. In contrast, someone who believes in Kant's ideology would be ok with this action because of the motives behind it, and someone who believes in utilitarianism would definitely be ok with this action because they consequence of saving a life outweighs that of stealing once from a rich company.