Do you have any moral issues about your work?
I have, off and on. I consider myself a pacifist, and yet I’ve found myself working through the years for projects that were funded by the Department of Defense. About a decade ago, I would’ve said it would never happened…but things change.
The first project didn’t strike me as anything to be concerned about: we were studying magnetic fields originating in the ionosphere. While the defense wing we were working with needed this information, it was fundamental science that could be used for a lot of things.
Lately, a lot of the work I’ve done has involved sensors or communication devices. While I initially worried that working on these items was hypocritical, I have realized that it isn’t. Much of what we work on is also being developed for commercial markets. Maybe working on RFID, for example, enables item tracking for the military, but it also works for the shipping, trucking, inventory, etc. of commercial businesses. If the work I’m doing can be used by the average person to their benefit, I’m not so sure that there is a moral quandry. One might argue that it is simply because of where the money originates, but that isn’t always straightforward, either. Is a device to help burn victims regrow skin inherently bad because the military is funding it?
On the other hand, I talked to someone who was concerned his company may be contracting directly with a munitions manufacturer. That is a considerably more difficult situation to be in.
So do you have any moral limitations on the work you would do? Has that ever changed? What if it came to a choice between keeping and losing your job?