Looks Like New: Can Software Handle Ethics?

Free and open-source software is a kind of miracle. It’s community-created technology, a commons that anyone can contribute to and use. But those communities are not always the utopias they’re made out to be. Many have been havens for exclusionary cultures, and their tools have been used to perpetrate human-rights abuses.

Coraline Ada Ehmke is a software developer working to change that. She created the Contributor Covenant, a widely adopted code of conduct for open-source projects. Now she is leading the Ethical Source Movement, which enables projects prevent their tools from being used for purposes they oppose.

 

MEDLab’s radio show and podcast, Looks Like New, asks old questions about new tech.

Each month, host Nathan Schneider speaks with someone who works with technology in ways that challenge conventional narratives and dominant power structures. The name comes from the phrase “a philosophy so old that it looks like new,” repeated throughout the works of Peter Maurin, the French agrarian poet and co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement.

You can hear Looks Like New the fourth Thursday of every month at 6 p.m., or online as a podcast on iTunes and Stitcher.