Real Rebels Pay Their Taxes

Is it ethical to invest time into learning and using technologies from companies that pay little or no taxes?

That was a question I posed to my colleagues back in February 2020, which led to a very interesting ethical conversation. Sparked by that I thought that this is a question that deserved to be explored further and shared with the greater developer community.

After writing and pitching talk proposals to several conferences I was finally accepted by NDC Oslo. After reading and accepting the invitation I ordered books and began researching in earnest.

This talk is an invitation to reflect on our ethical responsibilities as developers. In the talk I argue that the technologies we choose to use carry ethical implications, and urge I everyone to reflect on this in light of ethics, economical value and taxes.

It was a wild ride to prepare and present this talk, and I'm proud to be able to share this talk with you here.

Reactions

The reactions from the conference attendees who watched the live stream of my talk were overwhelmingly positive. No one were disappointed that this talk labeled ethics in software development wasn't deeply technical. Instead, more than one person replied that they definitely had received something to reflect on and research further.

Person sitting in front of computer.

Just a photo of me right after giving my one hour long talk within the confines of a tiny home office.

After some time the recorded talk was published on Youtube, where one commenter wrote that this talk was hardly technical and purely political. Another commenter was worried about how a technical conference such as NDC Oslo could include a talk like this.

Is my talk political and thus irrelevant to developers? The answer to that depends on whether you think technology is elevated above the concerns of the broader society. Some developers still fervently believe that technology is something that exists entirely outside of the larger society and thus without ethical and political implications.

However, more and more developers are realising that we need to aknowledge how profoundly our work affect our societies in both good and bad ways. If we can acknowledge that then we can start to see how important ethics is to our line of work.

For more on ethics in software, and how software relates to the broader society I can recommend these links.

My talk references

On rampant tax optimization

On societal costs

On the critique of Norway's contact-tracing app

On this great book on design ethics

Ethics

Value

Taxes

Technology