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Ask Slashdot: Ambitious Yet Ethical Software Jobs?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the all-depends-on-what-your-ethics-say dept.

Software 559

First time accepted submitter hwaccaly writes "I'm a mid-career developer with a fair amount of experience working on data-intensive, mathematically ambitious software projects for fun — things like physics and systems simulations, written mostly in CUDA, targeted at Tesla GPUs and small clusters. Ideally, I'd like to get paid for this kind of work, but I've found little call for these skills outside of the financial and defense industries. My conscience won't allow me to accept money from either. The medical/pharmaceutical industries undoubtedly require complex software, but the unavoidable animal testing at the end of the pipeline probably lifts its body count higher even than the defense industry's. And academia pays in degrees, not dollars. So what's left? Do any ethical businesses have a pressing need for high-performance computing, or is it basically a hobbyist niche?"

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Ex-Gaming (4, Interesting)

dcollins (135727) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280279)

Fifteen years ago I was happy to be in the games industry and saying, "Isn't it nice to have a job for smart technical people that can't possibly be of any use to the military", but now even that's not the case. Plus the industry is wildly volatile and not great or long-term working conditions.

Re:Ex-Gaming (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280299)

In 1979 I had an idea that could let computers translate languages fluently. After consideration I realised that it could also let weapons make ethical decisions. I destroyed my notes, stillbirthed the idea, and I've never ever regretted doing so.

Re:Ex-Gaming (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280333)

And apparently none of the 7 billion other people on earth had the same idea at all. Sure. Because you making this decision totally changed the world (hint: it happened anyway)

Re:Ex-Gaming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280745)

Yes, that would have been a ridiculous decision and also pointless; that was the point.

Re:Ex-Gaming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280523)

I mean, if anything it certainly makes a good story.... a mad scientist... I'm not really sure how you came to that conclusion, though. Translation and cognition are two vastly different things.

Re:Ex-Gaming (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280527)

0/10. Kill yourself.

Re:Ex-Gaming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280653)

It all depends on the company you work for. Got a job at Valve? Your damned lucky and don't have to worry. But a mid tier developer? "Paranoid rabbit" comes to mind.

Frankly though, with the skillset suggested only a stable, high end developed would higher him (her?) anyway. Epic, Valve, MS, even NVIDIA might all be possibilities. It's definitely not something to count out just because a few areas are in flux.

Medical (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280289)

Just a though bu if you are working in the medical industry on something that is killing people today then might not your body count actually be negative? Yes, I can see what you are talking about with animal testing leading to death from your work, but lets assume what you are working on ends up saving lives. Lets say in testing 10000 mice have to be killed to ensure the results from your work are correct (yeah that sucks, no one wants to kill animals) but if that leads to something that helps save peoples lives for the foreseeable future I'd argue that it could easily save more than 10000 people. so treating all lives as equal you are still coming out positive

Re:Medical (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280347)

The universe can only be experienced through a single life, no more, no less, so the destruction of any one life is the destruction of an entire universe of experience. For that reason, the "badness" of that death is infinite.

10,000 x -infinity + 10,000 x infinity = NaN.

Simple subtraction falls short of capturing the destruction of 10,000 lives.

But on the other hand, they're mice, and they were just going to poop on mazes anyway.

Re:Medical (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280451)

The universe can only be experienced through a single life, no more, no less, so the destruction of any one life is the destruction of an entire universe of experience. For that reason, the "badness" of that death is infinite.

It then follows that the "badness" of killing one person is the same as the "badness" of killing two billion of them. Nice.

Re:Medical (4, Insightful)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280635)

Yes, and I'm sure that lions think about the universe of experience of the animal that they're currently tearing to shreds. The same goes for crocodiles as they crunch the bones of an animal that happens to get too close to the water, and shortly afterwards drown them. Surely wolves think the same. How about the average house cat that chews the legs off a bird that's still alive, tormenting it for hours until the owner hits it with a shovel to put the poor thing out of its misery. Nah, it's character builder when nature does it.

This is what I love about the PITA (Yes, I know it's PETA, get the joke buddy) trustafarian types. You know the ones, that tell everyone they're screwing the planet whilst living off of daddy's trust fund. Nature is violent. Nature is gruesome. The coal face of society is no different. It's only within our bubble of existence that we can maintain the suspension of disbelief that we, and all things surrounding us are immortal "universes of experiences".

Given the choice of 10,000 mice dying for the sake of medical technology to save even 1 life is more than worth it to most of human society. Disagree with me? What if that life is your life, or the life of your child.

Please, for the sake of rational agents everywhere, leave your hippie rubbish at the door.

Re:Medical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280669)

Yes, and I'm sure that lions think about the universe of experience of the animal that they're currently tearing to shreds. The same goes for crocodiles as they crunch the bones of an animal that happens to get too close to the water, and shortly afterwards drown them. Surely wolves think the same. How about the average house cat that chews the legs off a bird that's still alive, tormenting it for hours until the owner hits it with a shovel to put the poor thing out of its misery. Nah, it's character builder when nature does it.

Some of us try to be more human than wild beasts.

Re:Medical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280729)

Yes. For killing one person at once, you get the death penalty. For killing two billion people at once, you get the death penalty.

Re:Medical (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280749)

Not in Canada.

Re:Medical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280491)

The universe can only be experienced through a single life, no more, no less, so the destruction of any one life is the destruction of an entire universe of experience.

That's actually kind of lovely. I'd mod you up if I had points.

Fallacious step (2, Interesting)

srussia (884021) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280599)

The universe can only be experienced through a single life, no more, no less, so the destruction of any one life is the destruction of an entire universe of experience. For that reason, the "badness" of that death is infinite.

Taking the two implicit premises as true (infinity of the universe and uniqueness of experience), the "infinity of experience" conclusion is fallacious. The universe may be infinite, but any one person's experience is not necessarily so. In fact, I would tend to think personal experiences are finite and unequal.

Re:Medical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280625)

I take it you're a vegetarian then, never use animal byproducts (eg leather) and never kill any spider, fly or bacteria?

Re:Medical (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280731)

I'm the guy that posted the original, and I'm not trying to force any lifestyle choices here, just pointing out that the universe is pointless without perception and no individual life can perceive from more than its own set of senses.

I'm not telling you to be a vegetarian. I'm not one. Existing is a compromise, and for me a hypocritical one. Your compromises may vary.

Re:Medical (5, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280415)

Animal testing isn't the first step in medical research, it's the last step before human trials.
Do any of those "ethical" people want to take the place of those animals or do they think other humans should take that risk?

Re:Medical (5, Insightful)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280461)

Also, the needs of animal testing are generally reduced by the availability of high-performance computing anyway. Animal testing is expensive and difficult to get approval for - much of the goal of simulation (which is the type of thing you use HPC for) is to reduce your need for it.

Re:Medical (5, Insightful)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280723)

Mod parent up. I was just coming to point this out too. I did neural simulation software at the beginning of my career. The explicit goal of the project was to reduce the need for carving up mouse brains. There are lots of projects like that out there. Go find one.

Re:Medical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280571)

Depends which testing your talking about, there is indeed some medical testing that's still required, but there's other stuff like the LD50 which serves very little purpose. You hit the point way before that dose where you're no longer able to administer things to people under normal circumstances.

Re:Medical (2)

jandersen (462034) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280671)

May I be controversial and point out that saving lives on an overpopulated planet may in itself not be ethical?

No, of course I don't think we should let people just die; and I think it is possible to perform animal experiments in an ethical way. But I think we need a major rethinking and refocusing of our perspectives. Things like religiously based notions about "the sanctity of life" and the perhaps equally religious notion of "the sanctity of the profit margin" are poor guidelines for any research, and the pharmaceuticals spend a huge proportion of their research on relatively inconsequential problems as a consequence. That is why they have neglected really serious problems like malaria, and instead like to concentrate on chronic diseases. The thing about eg malaria is that 1) those affected are poor, and 2) if you cure it, you make no more money. Chronic patients, on the other hand, will keep paying all of their, hopefully, long lives.

Re:Medical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280689)

If you say animal testing is inevitable, then if you can work for a medical testing company and do a better job than someone else, say, saving the life of 100 mice or something, wouldn't you be making a difference then? If your HPC finesse and hard work save the lives of 100, or 1000 mice or however many, then your efficiency has reduced the number of mice killed. By choosing not to work for the big pharma and letting your skills go to waste you are introducing inefficiencies that will cause the deaths of countless more mice. The best solution is to work for the big pharma and come up with ways to prevent having to test things on animals by developing better drug interaction algos or whatever it is they do. Simulate the mice better. Maybe tackle the problems head on and you'll making a difference, if that's what you're aiming at.

Everything's unethical! (2, Insightful)

mpoulton (689851) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280291)

You consider it unethical to do any computing work for the financial, medical, or pharmaceutical industries? But yet you want a job with a high salary? I think your ethical determinations need some reconsideration.

Re:Everything's unethical! (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280329)

As point of fact, he did not say he wanted a high paying salary, just that he would like to get paid. There is a distinction. Your hyperbole adds nothing, and only makes it look like you're trying to demonize him.

Re:Everything's unethical! (5, Insightful)

neyla (2455118) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280445)

He said that "academia pays in degrees, not dollars", which hints that he'd consider the wages paid in academia insufficient.

In actual facts, university-employees are paid in dollars. They're just lower paid than financial analysts etc.

Re:Everything's unethical! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280431)

Generally, if it's high-salary work, it's unethical. I am not sure why anyone would limit the scope of evil to just the financial, medical, or pharmaceutical industries.

Re:Everything's unethical! (1)

beachcoder (2281630) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280623)

Quite right.

In general, the more money you want to make, the more ethics you have to drop.

huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280297)

Ambitious, Ethical, Software

Three words I haven't seen together as anything more than a marketing phrase.

Re:huh? (2)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280377)

Whatcha talkin about? "Ethical" is practically equivalent of fnord to marketers. :P

Re:huh? (2)

ATMAvatar (648864) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280391)

Well, you could do open source work, which could meet all 3, but then you'd probably be leaving out the omitted "Paid" part.

What? (5, Insightful)

pal (16076) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280309)

Huh? The academy doesn't pay people? Medical research is a net negative? Maybe you could make some money doing character consulting for an upcoming season of Portlandia.

Re:What? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280375)

I lol'd.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280421)

I was thinking he could start a solar energy research company, that's a non-profit, developing new panels made from renewable, biodegradable, non-toxic materials, and produce at 80% efficiency. Meanwhile, donate any incidental profits to PETA. It'll be difficult though, because I hear licensing IP is unethical.
 

Re:What? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280513)

But the only way to make money in solar is to receive tax dollars, so some child is getting a shittier education, some elderly person is going without medication, and some infant is going without formula, so you can make something some fucking rich dude will use as a tax deduction on his home. Yeah, that's fucking ethical.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280531)

Damn, youve certainly found the one-and-only flaw in my plan!

Re:What? (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280667)

so some child is getting a shittier education...

We can always borrow another $10T from those paragons of ethics the PRC.

Re:What? (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280661)

I'm pretty sure PETA will protest regardless of whether the incidental profits are donated to them or not, because they'll have a problem with the treatment of the unicorns that are supposed to fart out these solar panels!

get a job you unwashed hippie (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280315)

suck it up

Here's one... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280321)

There's a new industry with opportunities pertaining to your expertise right now...

the exciting world of Bitcoins! :D

No such thing as an "Ethical" business .... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280331)

Every business or venture has its positives and negatives. The defense industry of course kills people. On the other hand, if we had no military it would not be long before some enterprising country decided that they could annex ours whether we liked it or not. The medical industry of course tests on animals. On the other hand, it preserves human life and perhaps someday -- yours. The gaming industry -- wow, what a waste of time that is. People sitting in front of their computers or televisions when they could be out saving the world -- literally. Perhaps inventing some new power source, medicine, or helping some new immigrant to learn English. On the other hand, just think of all the "blood minerals" that are used to make your hardware you use to code with.

Perhaps the only "ethical" business is to go be a gardener. (And to be frank, I could do that for the rest of my life happily.) On the other hand, I'm not sure the "weeds" would agree.

Re:No such thing as an "Ethical" business .... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280705)

All the work and chemicals used in your pretty garden instead of wirking at a community garden helping to grow fruits and vegetables for less fortunate in your community?

There are ethical dilemmas in most of our actions and choiceswe face daily. Maybe practice mindfulness or maximizing the good you think you're contributing even in a corrupt unethical machine.

It up to you. Ultimately you're the one you face in the mirror and need to be in the good with, not us blathering fools on /.

Visual effects (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280345)

Visual effects for motion pictures/commercials.

Most of the industry is cpu driven when there's a ton of room for fluid and particle-based simulations to be gpu accelerated. We're at the turning point where the technology exists in a dumb/not useful form but will be good/useful in the very near future.

You can apply for either a massive studio and work in-house on their own proprietary software or try to land a job at autodesk/thefoundry et al and work on software packages that small-mid (and even some large) studios buy licenses for.

Re:Visual effects (3, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280427)

Anything remotely related to MAFIAA is obviously too unethical. ;)

standard too high. (5, Insightful)

zerotorr (729953) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280355)

No, because all that computing is being done on machines using rare-earth blood minerals mined in Africa, or composed of parts machined in sweat shops in China. Seriously, if you're going to claim that level of ethicality, you should be farming your own veggies in a self sufficient, carbon neutral commune.

Come work for us (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280357)

We are a very socially conscious company which uses GPU's for video encoding - http://www.elementaltechnologies.com/company/careers/opportunities-at-elemental

About medical... (4, Insightful)

Genda (560240) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280359)

There is tons of medical and biological heavy lifting with computers that would prevent animal testing and perhaps prevent the need for double blind medical trials (meaning we wouldn't have to give placebos to critically ill people, and potentially save twice as many people.) Everything from advances in protein modeling and dramatic breakthroughs in analyzing DNA to DNA/RNA origami (designed and implemented first in computers) that will almost certain provide exciting new cures to everything from cancer to autoimmune diseases.

I agree big Pharma is a nasty business, but there are plenty of places where you can make a meaningful contribution to the human condition and at the same time exercise your frontal lobes.

Re:About medical... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280489)

Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought nobody would "have to give placebos to critically ill people", except where there is no known treatment that can be used in the control group?

@OP: Medical is medical. They do make money. Off sick people. Does not make them inherently bad. They will always maximize profits in ways society allows them to, so society has to fix it.

Re:About medical... (5, Interesting)

Nutria (679911) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280699)

I agree big Pharma is a nasty business

I say a little atheist prayer every night thanking the FSM for the existence of Big Pharma, because without them I'd be in a sanitarium (or whatever they're called now) having almost continuous seizures.

Not a niche (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280367)

Its not a niche, high performance computing is important to the defense, finance and healthcare industries.

What was your other question? Oh yeah, which things don't offend you. And you're asking us??

Everything you have now had a price. (5, Insightful)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280369)

You drink the same water. Eat the same food. Consume the same energy.

This all has a price. You think you're a more moral man then Einstein?

Do you know what the first man to discover fire said?

"Ouch"

There is a price. Ambition has it's price. I'm not saying you should be unethical. I'm saying defense work, animal testing, etc aren't unethical. If our people didn't do it then where would we be? Imagine if the US never had defense contractors or scientists and engineers that contributed to the defense industry. What would the soldier go into battle with? Either a sharped stick and loin cloth. Or more likely we'd be forced to buy weapons from an extra national third party and be beholden to their whim whenever we engaged in war.

And what of testing on animals. What medical breakthroughs were only possible because of animal testing? Ask a biologist, a doctor, or any other stripe of medical expert what our medicine would look like without animal testing.

And why do we do animal testing? Because we consider it more ethical then doing it on people. Which is the alternative. Do you want to be the white rat in cage 1173?

Look, I don't want to attack your world view or suggest you need to do things you disagree with... What I am saying is that you benefit from these things every day of your life. I don't understand how people can look down their nose at these methods while at the same time voluntarily benefiting from the consequences.

Would you torture a lab rat to save your mother's life? I mean... torture it. I'm talking live vivisections... Ideally with no anesthesia. Simply bolt it's limbs to the to a board. This is to save your mother's life. I would. I'd take alternative paths if there were better options. But if it was a straight up choice between torturing a little animal and a human being dying. I choose human life every time.

Am I an evil person for making this calculation? Are the millions of men and women that have made this calcuation for generations evil? You eat evil every day. You drink it. You live in an evil society that is part of an evil civilization then. Because my view on this matter is the default setting for our whole civilization going back thousands of years.

In all our long history I'm not sure if we've ever come across another society that believed as you did... that put these things above their own survival. Consider that that is odd because we've encountered many societies and civilizations. That we've never encountered one with your values implies one of two things. Either human beings are genetically predisposed to not value that view. Or any society that does embrace that view dies out. In the end the second would become the first... so perhaps it's all the same.

In any case, if I were you... and I'm not... I would find a field in which you are challenged and valued. Obviously don't go working for demons, but possibly tone down your standards to something a bit more practical. You are not living in a world of saints. We're simply people. We're not entirely good or bad. We simply are. Try to accept that without holding people to unreasonable standards.

Re:Everything you have now had a price. (3)

SpudB0y (617458) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280429)

Thank you.

Re:Everything you have now had a price. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280501)

would you torture a Black person to save your mother? What if it was the 1840's and torturing black people was an essential part of civilization?

Re:Everything you have now had a price. (1)

YttriumOxide (837412) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280637)

would you torture a Black person to save your mother? What if it was the 1840's and torturing black people was an essential part of civilization?

I'd torture anyone that I love less than my mother in order to save my mother, regardless of skin colour or other factors.

Of course, I'd also torture my mother to save my daughter.

Not saying it'd be EASY to torture anyone (and especially not some I love), but I'd do it if it were really the only choice to save someone I love even more. (which itself is all academic, since in reality these situations don't really come up all that often, if ever)

Re:Everything you have now had a price. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280725)

Since we're throwing silly choices around, would you sacrifice your dauggter to save your son?

Re:Everything you have now had a price. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280509)

After 15 years the ultimate purpose of Slashdot is revealed: This comment. There is nothing left to be said. Time to close Slashdot folks, show's over.

Re:Everything you have now had a price. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280515)

"Because we consider it more ethical then doing it on people. Which is the alternative. Do you want to be the white rat in cage 1173?"

Another alternative is to not use neither humans or animal models and to accept a slowing of medical progress.

"Am I an evil person for making this calculation? Are the millions of men and women that have made this calcuation for generations evil? You eat evil every day. You drink it. You live in an evil society that is part of an evil civilization then. Because my view on this matter is the default setting for our whole civilization going back thousands of years."

This sounds like some fallacious appeal to popularity or tradition. Neither popularity or tradition make something right.

"In all our long history I'm not sure if we've ever come across another society that believed as you did... that put these things above their own survival. Consider that that is odd because we've encountered many societies and civilizations. That we've never encountered one with your values implies one of two things. Either human beings are genetically predisposed to not value that view. Or any society that does embrace that view dies out. In the end the second would become the first... so perhaps it's all the same."

So what? Until recently there probably wasn't another society that didn't think people of other races were inferior or worthy of the same rights that they had. You seem to have the strange view that it's not possible for some new stable ethical framework to develop. There is no reason to limit ourselves to the standards set by desperate ancestors who had to do terrible things to simply survive. We have more options now. We should explore them.

Re:Everything you have now had a price. (4, Insightful)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280597)

""Another alternative is to not use neither humans or animal models and to accept a slowing of medical progress.""
No, the alternative would be burning everything we've learned about medicine in the last 4000 years.

How much did we learn by disturbing the dead? Dissecting human remains was where our basic knowledge of human anatomy came from. This was considered by most to be a violation of the corpse.

You have some choices.

1. You can disavow all modern medicine and if you get sick simply suffer and hope to get better on your own.
2. You can be a hypocrite and criticize it while using it. This is what most do that attack the modern world. Evil when they don't need it and suddenly acceptable when they do.
3. You can moderate your position to take into consideration what is reasonable in the real world.

Those are your choices. I'm assuming you're going with option two. I find that unfortunate but there is no law against being a hypocrite.

""This sounds like some fallacious appeal to popularity or tradition. Neither popularity or tradition make something right.""
Not really. It's an appeal to reason. Everything you have had a price. Your forefathers paid it. If you find that price to be unacceptable then return what they took.

You could say that you had no control over that and you'd instead like to simply not do it in the future. Fine. Does that mean you'll refuse all NEW medical care developed through animal testing?

Point blank... Would you DIE to honor this pact? Because this is life and death. We spend the lives of little furry rats to buy life for humans. It is the calculation.

And your progress without animal testing won't be slowed. It will stop. You can't do the experiment without a test subject. Some doctors have experimented on themselves. We could do that.

Will you be my guinea pig? If you say no and won't accept research derived from animal testing then you will get no new treatment. You'll get homeopathy, a warm hand to hold while you die, and a comfy pillow.

I love my family and myself too much to accept that. I will pay the price. And if that makes me a bad person. So be it.

""So what?""
I'd rather my whole society not win the darwin awards.

If you want to go off to the woods and live like an animal that is your business. I won't trouble you. Look at the Amish. We leave them alone.

But if I have any say in it, my society will survive. If you want to die. Die. I believe in the living.

Re:Everything you have now had a price. (0)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280685)

1. You can disavow all modern medicine and if you get sick simply suffer and hope to get better on your own.

What does "Working-Class Health Insurance" have to do with medical ethics?

Re:Everything you have now had a price. (0)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280757)

Save me your crypto-communist bullshit.

Schrödinger's ethical Quantum Cat (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280563)

You think you're a more moral man then Einstein?

When discussing Ethics, Schrödinger's Quantum Cat should be applied (and at the same time, not applied). The issue is so quantumly entangled that you will end up being both simultaneously Ethical and Unethical.

You might as well conjure up an enraged Werner Heisenberg armed with an ethical/unethical electric mosquito swatter. Although he thinks he knows where that ethical/unethical mosquito is, every time he tries to swat it, the little bastard changes position, momentum, spin, polarization, etc. So poor Werner needs to scratch his head again, and think over what is ethical and unethical again.

. . . or maybe he needs to scratch his head and not scratch it simultaneously.

Re:Schrödinger's ethical Quantum Cat (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280615)

Open the box.

Is the cat alive or dead.

F' predicting whether it will be or not. Is it.

Are you a more moral man then Einstein?

Yes or no?

We are not gods. We're human beings. We are meat, bone, and will. If you set unreasonable standards for us in this universe... you will only kill us all if we try to meet them.

If you want to destroy yourself... do it. I will stay alive. If that means strapping some rats to a board and torturing them to learn secrets that will keep people I love alive. So be it. But I won't eat the sin for that alone. Anyone that benifits from the act eats the sin with me. Which means you're no less damned then me.

You have no grounds to claim moral or ethical superiority unless you're willing to pay something for your convictions. It's very easy to say something is wrong. It's another to actually suffer for your beliefs.

Would you let your mother die to save the lives of a thousand rats? Not even one rat. A thousand rats or your mother's life. Or if you like... your wife's life... you child's life.

Who lives... the rats or your first born son? Pay the piper or close your mouth.

Re:Everything you have now had a price. (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280605)

Always remember your place may fly, the universe is billions of years old and will continue for billions more. Greed is not the only measure of success and far more likely to be a trap rather than a reward. Ambition contribute more to life than consume from it, all things are balance, it would seem unwise to allow ambition to leave a negative balance. In a may fly existence, that regardless of how great the perceived impact upon the living universe it will disappear as if it never ever happened and yet what stains will remain with you forever.

Re:Everything you have now had a price. (0)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280675)

Nature tells us every day. Them or you. It's a constant game of musical chairs.

All you're telling me is that you should have died. Those without a will to live - shouldn't. I will live. I will beat my chest and bath in the blood of any man or beast that lies between me and life.

I make no excuses for this and care nothing for anyone's opinion on the matter. I do not need your approval. I do not need your forgiveness.

I will live.

Re:Everything you have now had a price. (1)

fpoling (2535392) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280639)

"And what of testing on animals. What medical breakthroughs were only possible because of animal testing?"

And what medical breakthrough were not possible and what harm was done because of animal testing?

Animals are not humans and that has 2 consequences. First, if the animal testing shows that a substance is not harmful, then it will be tested on much bigger group of humans compared to the case when the substance is not tested. So more people suffers in case of harmful effects on human body. Secondly, if animal testing shows signs of harm, then the substance would not be tried on humans even if it is beneficial for them. For example, it is doubtful that animal testing would allow to discover helpful effects of mustard gas for leukemia.

The bottom line is that animal testing can be harmful for medical progress. We just do not know to what extend and it could be that without animal torture we would be better of.

Re:Everything you have now had a price. (1)

slart42 (694765) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280659)

In any case, if I were you... and I'm not... I would find a field in which you are challenged and valued. Obviously don't go working for demons, but possibly tone down your standards to something a bit more practical. You are not living in a world of saints. We're simply people. We're not entirely good or bad. We simply are. Try to accept that without holding people to unreasonable standards.

The question is, however, what are "reasonable standards"? Where do you draw the line? And this is very hard to tell because the lines are always blurry. The submitter said he does not want to work for the defense industry and you argue that defense is net positive. The thing is, it's hard to tell, and totally pov. Is working for a weapons smuggler selling weapons to Taliban fighters ethical? If you believe that the Taliban are the good side, then probably. Is doing software consulting as a contractor for any western army ethical? Equally if you believe that they are the good side, then probably. But what if you're not sure which side is the good side - or if you doubt that there is such a thing as the "good side" at all? And even if you are sure about that, there are plenty of areas which are more blurred. What if you work for a for profit company building weapons, and selling to anyone they can legally sell to (and then still profiting from money trickling through from illegal sales through weapon smuggling)? Which of these is ethical? I find it very hard to tell for myself, which is why I'd rather opt not to make these decisions, and prefer to stay out of that industry altogether (which turns out not to be as easy as it sounds - I work in game development, and these days there is a very big market in selling game tech the defense industries for simulation purposes).

Depravity is not necessary. (2)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280759)

The presence of evil does not imply it's necessity.

While it's possible that animal testing has contributed to medical science in the past, these days it's mostly done in the name of developing pharmaceutical products of dubious social value. I would propose to you that by your equation, any such testing would be highly unethical. Especially when you consider that a lot of the drugs developed ultimately do more harm than good.

While your position about defense projects might make sense historically, it's hard to argue that contemporary projects, like UAVs are justified.

Banking, likewise, could have been said to be justified in the past. These days, though, it's pretty clear that it's just a bunch of assholes trying to make a quick buck and screw everyone else over.

All of these industries (pharmaceuticals, defense, and banking) seemed reasonable in the past. If you can't see today that they are totally evil, you probably never will.

There's this rumor that Mr. Rogers was a sniper in Vietnam. These kind of rumors gain traction easily because people want to believe they are true, as if Mr. Rogers being a sniper somehow makes their depravity more justifiable. If you think there's never been a society that valued morality and did not celebrate violence and depravity and injustice, you just haven't looked hard enough, or you haven't believed in what you found.

OpenCL on free software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280373)

Persuade someone pay you to make OpenCL work on free software. (Make sure to avoid the proprietary firmwares...) There are plenty of ethical research projects that could use it. If they pooled (some of) their resources, it would be a fair amount of money. There are some bounties posted as well. And we could really use it. :)

This work could earn you some money AND a degree!

High performance GPUs ... ? (1)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280383)

You could try designing Bitcoin mining rigs (no, I'm serious), but I doubt you could do much software improvement over existing mining software.

Unless you consider that "the financial industry" (which would be bizarre).

Private Sector Space Exploration (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280385)

You may have to learn other languages, but that doesn't sound like it should be a problem for you. Regardless, you're going to have to show off your talent in those "for fun" projects.

build farming projections (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280389)

basically producing food is the only field you left out for yourself, but even that food might be used by the military and most definitely it will be put to some financial use. I don't think with your current ethical rules you could even be building fluid simulations for industry.. or even drag simulations for F1 racers.

you could try to do art though.

A couple of thoughts (4, Informative)

DeathToBill (601486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280393)

Meteorology (and earth sciences more generally). Mostly public sector and academic, but there is some private-sector work going on too. Things like forecasting energy output of wind farms tends to be private-sector and involves lots of modelling and number crunching. Similar goes for mining / geology, depending on your ethical view of that.

While being an academic "pays in degrees, not dollars," doing contract work for academic can be rewarding. Most academics are pretty clueless about statistics and are happy to pay someone else goodish rates to do the statistics for them. While it's probably not the HPC wonderland you're after, it will bring you into contact with very diverse research areas and probably involves at least some crunching of big data sets.

Re:A couple of thoughts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280447)

I was thinking along these same lines. If the original poster isn't again all government work, I would think NASA, NOAA, or USGS would all have a use for high performance modeling.

Re:A couple of thoughts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280727)

Yeah, most research is government funded. You basically would need to either work for the heartless government or heartless business interests (usually financial companies) which require extreme data sets and number crunching.

Re:A couple of thoughts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280459)

a genocidal meteor wiped out the dinosaurs - scratch that!

Ethical? (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280419)

How is fiddling with computers "ethical" when there are people -- and apparently much more important than people, animals -- in the world who don't live perfect, utopian lives? Shouldn't you be out growing organic crops to feed the homeless? Or to feed to rats and bunnies?

You can't hug a child with Euclidean arms! (But you can let a child die of a preventable disease because there's no way to test the vaccine.)

If you're looking for a job, try searching Indeed.com for "CUDA" AND "Must be extremely full of himself".

Re:Ethical? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280703)

I get his point. Would you be comfortable working on risk assessment software for oil companies that incorporates the likelihood of resistance from the local population? Or on the guidance software of an ICBM? What about developing spyware for the DHS?

The OP would not like that. And I would not either.

Okay, princess. The fairy tale is over. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280435)

WELCOME TO *REAL* LIFE!

If you are going to *just* live, it is going to upset the balance in the universe. Every breath you take pollutes this planet.

Really, that's life. If you can't deal with it better get off now and stop wasting resources!

And as far as you aiding and abetting evil: that's okay, none of us will matter anyways. The chances of you being a Hitler, or even an Oppenheimer, are slim to none.

GET OVER YOURSELF.

Two keys to life: Have fun and try not to be an asshole.

Stunning Question?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280439)

Is there nothing productive left to do? Is all large scale enterprise dedicated to winning zero-sum or negative-sum games? If so, we ought to just give it all up.

Possibilities for high-powered computation such as you practice:

Aerodynamics -- OK, a lot of this is weapons related, but we are going to want to find some way to keep traveling about to see our loved ones after fuel gets scarce,

Weather and climate -- That is important to the war machines, but also to just about everyone else.

Social networks -- These look like they might take over the lion's share of IT assets in the world. When we have 3 or 4 billion players all wanting to connect with the right people, there must be great opportunities for those who can figure out which people are the right people.

Pharmaceuticals -- Don't you think that computing might be a way to reduce the need for tests on animals?

Engineering -- All the technology that sustains the present energy gluttony will be obsolete in a generation or two and must be replaced. It's a frightening prospect, but it must be fraught with opportunities, too.

Management -- We can hope that the world wants to better than it has at meeting human needs and offering opportunities to many more people, but that means running much closer to the edge than ever before. It can't be done without newer and better systems of management that operate with correct respect for and improved knowledge of scientific facts. If you don't want to work on the political or economic problems of making this happen, there should still be much to do on the scientific end.

And how about weapons? Some weapons are stabilizing and can sustain peace for a good while. Others are destabilizing evil. Can't anyone build the stabilizing kind anymore?

If you're into the realm of too ambitious: AI (3, Interesting)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280441)

You said you did 3d simulations and you're good at physics.

Bare with me: It isn't CYC, but something based on CYC, I forget the actual name. The premise is that you use a 3d simulation to be imagination space for the AI. You need to write an effective physics simulation and database objects into it. If you write an effective 3d imagination space, you could then talk to the 3d imagination space in natural language. The next step is writing vision/laser detection and other senses to read in the real world and simplify it to the imagination space. Once you got something that can turn its environment into something it can think about and do tasks, you have AI. AI isn't some complex and unable to be understood idea where a machine has thoughts like a human, it can be made like a program that just follows orders. Sure once you had AI, you could fake a personality such as by setting coefficients for desiring to do different tasks.

This project would be a lifetime en devour though. I'd be doing it myself if I had enough resources to survive on for the rest of my life. Alas, I need to try and make video games for the short term, so I can have a shot at having it made to do this science work.

I'd aim small to begin with:

3d imagination space, I'd work with as elementary as objects as I could:
Sphere
Block
Rectangle block

Then I would build complex objects out of them. Just this exercise in and of itself could lead to better and bigger things.

Even though it would be many years down the line, the same goes for when you do vision/laser range finding senses to detect the world:
You'd have a really elementary room, like factories. Modern day robots do vision detection, but on a limited number of things to view: Holes to put screws in mainly. So start with just a room with some spheres and blocks in it, and see if the AI can properly observe what is going on. You don't even need a body, just observe what happens in the room.

To me, AI seems very ambitious, but at least there is a plan to do it. Some people can't even grasp that AI is doable. But it is.
A: Write an imagination space that understands natural language.
B: Do vision detection algorithms that map real world objects to imagination space.
C: Have someone build for you a robot that performs any number of functions, slap the AI in, and you're set.

Mind you imagination space and vision detection algorithms might take a man 50 years to do on his own if he is even capable of doing them at all. You'd really think someone like DARPA or something would be working on this and crank it out in 20 years with a crack team of programmers. And hey maybe they are for all we know:P

Re:If you're into the realm of too ambitious: AI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280619)

OpenCog?

GIVE IT AWAY, GIVE IT AWAY, GIVE IT AWAY NOW !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280467)

Do that and you will be seen as an upstanding and moral character, at least by those who don't pay for software !! Like yourself. Seems only fitting.

environment modelling (2)

oever (233119) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280485)

There is a lot of modelling you can do on water levels that uses rainfall, erosion, climate models. This modelling is not just useful for academics, but also useful for governments that want to improve their water management.

You could go and model the decline of rain forests. There are many agencies that keep track of this. These are not acadamic jobs either.

And of course you could go into modelling the climate or dynamics of ecosystems (how do amounts of organisms change in time).

All of these topics are very challenging and very relevant for society.

There are some areas yes (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280495)

Mechanical simulations in:
Heat and CFD
FEM for mechanical resistance of parts

Dynamic programming/operational research

Electrical simulations (antennas, or just circuit simulations)

medical ethics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280499)

I find great fault in your medical ethics. You must accept that these things will happen sooner or later, with or without you. And when that happens the animal testing you are opposed of will happen. Without you, this is most likely to happen slower, which means your "ethics" only buys more human deaths who are waiting for the inevitable, but it didn't happen fast enough.

Hobbiest Niche (1)

mark99 (459508) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280505)

Hope you don't want to have kids.

predictive maintenance (1)

wienerschnizzel (1409447) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280511)

is the hype in medical and industrial devices. it involves datamining techniques to discover and report a possible future fault in a device. the end effect is tha for example a CT scanner has 99% uptime and a much lower chance of something going wrong during a patient scan. This stuff is being implemented for assembly lines offshore wind farms, AC units, airplanes, pretty much anything...

Don't be so tied to GPU computing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280521)

That's my suggestion. GPU computing is just a tool. I suggest CS, areas such as computer vision or AI. You can make plenty of money, you might have trouble avoiding defense applications, but I'm sure its possible, the field is very broad. You probably need a Master's or PhD in CS if you don't have one.

How many dollars are you looking for? (2)

AtlanticCarbon (760109) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280533)

You say academia pays in degrees, not dollars. Obviously, academics get paid by universities. Why not look into areas of pure science where computing could be helpful?

If you're looking for butt-loads of money then it's probably time to get off your ethical high-horse anyway.

Complex (3, Insightful)

SuurMyy (1003853) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280537)

It very hard not to be part of the problem. I struggle with this myself. It might be better to work for a co-operative or a non-profit, but they are often low-pay. If that's not an option, perhaps you can start a company or a co-operative yourself. Not wanting to go there, it's probably better to work for a small company than a large one, because the larger they get the more corrupt and less innovative they often are.

How about medical devices? Things that help and monitor old people and of that kind? Or some inventions to help traffic flows or some other kind of streamlining that actually make things better? You could also consider competing with existing companies that are taking a cut from something and just making it better and taking a smaller cut. That would leave more money for the consumers or governments or whoever is paying for the cut.

Small companies and startups often work on new innovative things and not all of their inventions are evil. They are often better working places in other ways as well. However, it's almost impossible to find a company that can only do good things. The economy is interconnected and there is almost no way of escaping the things that many do and it's quite likely that your company needs to work w/companies that aren't as high-minded as you might be.

There are many variables to this thing and nothing is perfect. When considering the environmental impact, human/labour/animal rights and not ripping off your customers and actually creating something of social value it gets so complicated that you cannot expect to find anything that would be completely satisfactory. Try to look for a lesser evil, a local maximum, if you will and then work to try to make it just a bit better.

And finally, it would actually help if you moved into a country that spends its taxes to build a better society rather than its military. Get a job in Scandinavia, for example. Just doing that would address many of things mentioned above, because we actually have useful laws up here, a working democracy where environmental issues are addressed and labour rights are honoured.

People should vote w/their feet and this doesn't only go for companies, it goes for countries, as well. I dunno if you have a family, but we actually have free schools and universities up here as well as free health care and so forth, but naturally you have to pay taxes to pay for them. However, your overall quality of life is much better this way and the societies are much better because of lower income disparity. How does a 37.5 hour work week sound to you like and actually getting paid for overtime? How about a 5 week vacation? The list goes on and on. I doubt making a few dollars more actually makes the equation more profitable, overall.

If you further consider that I belong to a union and I'm a member of a red/green left alliance party and this makes me no less valued at my workplace you should come to see how different things can be. It is normal to belong to a labour union up here.

Great way to constrain yourself (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280547)

I fail to see why it would be unethical to work for a pharmaceutical company. Drugs improve the quality of people's lives and save them outright in some instances. Even if there is animal testing involved, the immediate question is does the availability of high quality modelling tools reduce the amount of testing required on live subjects. My guess is that it would. Therefore what's unethical about that? And pharmaceuticals are only one aspect of medicine. I'm sure there is plenty of need for physic s simulation in orthopedic, podiatrics, prosthetics and so on.

Oil (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280577)

People who look for oil or shale use hpc all that but then you'd probably consider that bad.

What is this I don't even... (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280603)

The medical/pharmaceutical industries undoubtedly require complex software, but the unavoidable animal testing at the end of the pipeline probably lifts its body count higher even than the defense industry's.

Animal testing has saved human lives for decades. People against animal testing say that we can use computer models to test drugs. Where, exactly, do they think the data for those computer models are going to come from? It doesn't magic itself into existence.

And that's not even mentioning that the computer models we have are woefully incomplete.

Animal testing is worthwhile science and saves millions of lives in the long run. To say this is unethical and should be stopped means the deaths of millions due to medicine that is never researched.

Where are your so-called "ethics" now, OP?

--
BMO

Fundamental research in the transport sector maybe (1)

javanree (962432) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280641)

Ever considered things such as automotive, aerospace or nautical research&development?

I work for an institute which does fundamental research on naval vessels and we develop loads of software which can compute flows and pressures on ship hulls and the likes, as well as predict/calculate performance. We have several scientific clusters, are starting to develop CUDA-based software for grid processing and such. So I'd say plenty of opportunities, you just need to look for them.

Go for Pharma! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40280693)

I am writing simulation software for both the medical context and the financial business. I am also an idealist like you.

My project for the medical business is the massive parallel simulation of drug trials. These are simulated first to optimise the frequency with which patients visit the doctor (too often = high cost, not often enough = risk of overdose and adverse effects) and the length of the study. It certainly falls in the category of HPC (it is currently running on a 256-core cluster).
Sure, in the end it's just about saving money for drug trials, but this money is then spent on doing more R&D and maybe finding more drugs to help humanity. It is certainly a Good Thing and my part of advancing our species.

The other project is to assess the financial risk of giving small loans to poor people (consumer credit). Sure, it is challenging on a technical level, but it gives less payback in terms of 'advancing the human species' and is in a more ethical grey zone. Maybe the money gained from the interests of these loans ends up in good R&D, but it might well end up being invested in arms trade or oil companies as well.

So I would say: please, go on to a carreer in Medical simulations! You are actually lowering the amount of testing on animals. On top of that, you will even get paid at the end of the month (unlike gaming or entertainment). Doing fluid simulations for the latest Sprite commercial is probably even more challenging, but a lot more volatile and a dog-eat-dog world in terms of job security.

forecasting huricanes (1)

fpoling (2535392) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280709)

I know a person who works for a private company in Houston forecasting hurricanes and their potential damage. They are very heavy in HPC. Although they have some insurance companies as clients, their main contracts are with the oil industry that have many installations in Texas to worry about. Plus there are many building firms that want to estimate how much resources they have to allocate to fix things quickly.

You are wrong (1)

terminal.dk (102718) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280713)

Animal testing is there to avoid testing on humans. Would you rather have poor humans as victims ? That is what I consider inhumane.
Banks gives money to help people in need, and to help build companies providing jobs. Basicly they are doing good as well. Without banks, society would stop working, and everybody would live in hos own small 20 mile circle, not getting anything from outside.
Defence industry I can understand you don't like. But if you write code for a missile defense system, or a terrorist detection unit, would that really be that bad ?

Of course there is also the option of becoming an independent contractor, then you can pick contracts after your ethics, and write iOS apps to make a living when there are no clients.

Take a look at Laerdal.com for example (1)

mikkelmr (2659335) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280751)

Here are two open positions in a both ethical and ambitious company (I work here myself). Of course it requires that you are willing to move to Denmark, but to prove my point this they should still do... http://www.job-support.dk/ads/show.asp?id=152235 [job-support.dk] http://www.job-support.dk/ads/show.asp?id=152236 [job-support.dk] PS.We also have development in other locations worldwide (but don't know of any open positions).

wrong on so many levels (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#40280753)

1) There are medical projects whose explicit aim is to reduce the need for animal model testing.
2) Academia pays pretty well in CS. Your salary there will have 6 figures and start with 2, maybe 3 if you're sufficiently talented. You won't make a ton more than that unless you get lucky at a startup or go into finance. As far as I've seen, neither medical nor defense actually pays better than academia.

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