Just want to so, so far everything has been a wow moment. I’m really glad I asked about resources on the topic, as I can’t believe I haven’t heard of Dark Patterns or B Corps until now!
I hope to hear from more people, as it seems like this is something that has touched everyone so far.
Just a moment of perspective from the other side, too. (I’m going to really put myself out on a limb here) . As an engineer who’s finishing up a doctorate, I’ve had an interesting mix of opportunities. So far, I’ve had to step away from opportunities in heavy military contracting and really dig in to find other options.
Early in my education, I was exposed to the work IDEO was doing and found it compelling. That was the whole reason why I went the direction I did with my education. Along with that, their positive impact policy and their old “no assholes” policy really struck a chord with me and I adopted them. (I even have done an HCD online course with IDEO.org and Acumen that I really enjoyed)
While many different people feel differently about defense, I’ve never really been able to bring myself to get past two facts: after you build something you have no guarantee over 1.) how it’s going to be used, and 2.) who it will be used by.
1.) I strongly remember an interview by the creator of pepper spray following the debacle at UC Davis. He was talking about how he intended it to be a better alternative for force, but watching his face at how appalled he was that he had created this thing that he was seeing so misused has really stuck with me.
2.) Even if you build it for one audience, say the US army, and you’re comfortable with that use, it’s worth considering that where it goes after that is also a factor. So many recent US wars have been fought against groups armed with weaponry we built.
I have many colleagues, whom I consider friends, who do HF/UX work in a defense context, and I think that’s what drives some of my point about personal ethics versus professional ethics. I can respect that they differ with me on this subject and I think that, while it’s a violation of my personal ethics, it’s not a violation of theirs. Any professional ethic should be flexible enough to account for the different perspectives. I think the discussion needs to be had and individuals have to decide where they care to place the “vote” of their career efforts.
Even so, I’ve also seen a shift in some of my friends who’ve gone that route who were incredibly dedicated, but now are looking to make exits from defense into healthcare or other more pro-social fields after being disillusioned from seeing how the sausage is made.
All in all, I think my position has actually negatively impacted my job search so far, as I’m not a desirable candidate for anyone who has marginal interest in pursuing defense contracts. I know its affected my funding, as my research would have a decent chance of getting funding from the Army Research Lab.
I’m still holding out hope, however, that being clear over my standards are will make me a better
candidate for the kind of work that I really want to do. (Additionally, I have young colleagues who have voiced similar ambitions and concerns, but have been struggling similarly)