Big-Tech’s Ethics and Tom Lehrer at 90

Nature has published a piece on mathematician Tom Lehrer, who is turning 90 this year. He has written and sung many a satirical song highlighting the dangers of nuclear proliferation and other political issues.

One of these songs is about an ethical dilemma that it seems many big tech companies are facing:

The rousing ballad ‘Wernher von Braun’ undermines the former Nazi — who designed the V-2 ballistic missile in the Second World War and later became a key engineer in the US Apollo space programme. In Lehrer’s view, it was acceptable for NASA to hire von Braun, but making him into an American hero was grotesque. “‘Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?’/‘That’s not my department,’ says Wernher von Braun” — lines that still resonate in today’s big-tech ethical jungle.

It matters what we build and who we build it for.

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