ChatGPT - How Long Till They Realize I’m a Robot?

I tried it first on December 2nd... ...and slowly the meaning of it started to sink in. It's January 1st and as the new year begins, my future has never felt so hazy. It helps me write code. At my new company I'm writing golang, which is new for me, and one day on a whim I think "hmmm maybe ChatGPT will give me some ideas about the library I need to use." Lo-and-behold it knew the library. It wrote example code. It explained each section in just enough detail. I'm excited....It assists my users. I got a question about Dockerfiles in my teams oncall channel. "Hmmm I don't know the answer to this either"....ChatGPT did. It knew the commands to run. It knew details of how it worked. It explained it better and faster than I could have. Now I'm nervous....It writes my code for me. Now I'm hearing how great Github Copilot is - and it's built by OpenAI too...ok I guess I should give it a shot. I install it, and within minutes it'

The Terms that Blind Us

Confederate Statue Debate Is Reignited by George Floyd Protests ...
Blacklist.  Master-Slave Architecture.  Black Hat.  These terms helped build the foundations of software development as we know it today.  But do they support the narrative that black is bad and white is good?  And that having masters and slaves is ok?  Is it a racist act to continue to use them?

Let's first address the 'rolling my eyes' crowd.  It's true that, given the power of God, of all the things to change with a snap of your fingers, this one wouldn't be the first.  Let's describe, to the best of our ability, the argument that we should continue using these terms:

"these terms were not introduced with the intent to hurt people or make black people think they're less-than.  They're just part of a common vocabulary, and having that is important to the field of software development.  We need to be able to communicate with each other efficiently, and if we don't use the words that are already well-understood by most engineers/developers, then we'll have to define every term we use every time we use it.  I want to build software, not english."

Ok.  It's not blatantly racist and easy to disagree with.  It does, however, betray a set of values that the speaker has.  And if you look closely, it also highlights some opportunity in the speakers blind spots.

The speaker values efficiency in writing software - they value building things, and would lean towards solutions that make that possible.  The speaker is also not taking into account the experience of a black person who would have to live and work with these terms on a daily basis.  Master-slave evokes a real reminder of the brutality that black Americans have endured for centuries.  And in no way does it convey that it was bad.  The use of the term evokes an indifference to the events of the past.

The speaker also has not taken into account the possibility that other terms exist that solve the same problems (common vocabulary, efficiency in communication) but that aren't an indifferent reminder of slavery.  On my team, we use 'primary-secondary' and it works just fine.  Partitioning and replication are our most important functions and every engineer hears and says the words many times every day - and we haven't lost anything from doing it.  We're probably the best in the industry at what we do.  When I joined the team, the meaning of the terms were obvious even though in textbooks the terms master-slave are usually used.

The use of these terms is more than just inconvenient, and changing them takes less energy than choosing dinner on UberEats.  The hard part is admitting we were wrong for using them in the first place.

Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.

- Gandhi

Replacements for these terms:
Blacklist/Whitelist: Allowlist/Blocklist
Master-Slave: Primary-Secondary
Black hat/White hat: Ethical/Unethical


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