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This year’s Stack Overflow survey features a wealth of insights on developers around the world. There were some takeaways that are worth noting and open the door to wider investigation. Here are 4 Stack Overflow survey highlights we think merit further discussion…

25% of developers think a regulatory body should be responsible for AI ethics

The number of developers who believed a regulatory body should be responsible for AI ethics was a minority – more believed developers themselves should be responsible for ethical decisions around the artificial intelligence that they help to build. However, the fact that 1 in 4 of Stack Overflow’s survey respondents believe we need a regulatory body to monitor ethics in AI is not to be ignored – even if for the most part developers believe they are best placed to make ethical decisions, that feeling is far from unanimous. This means there is some unease about ethics and artificial intelligence that is, at the very least, worth talking about in more detail.

The ethics of code remains a gray area

There were a number of interesting questions around writing code for ethical purposes in this year’s survey. 58.5% of respondents said they wouldn’t write unethical code if they were asked to, 4.8% said they would, with 35.6% saying that it depends on what it is. Clearly, the notion of ethical code remains something that needs to be properly addressed within the developer and tech community. The recent Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal have only served to emphasize this. Equally interesting was the responses to the question around responsibility for ethical code. 57.5% said upper management were responsible for code that accomplishes something ethical, but 22.8% said it was ‘the person who came up with the idea’ and 19.7% said ‘the developer who wrote it’.

Hackathons and coding competitions are a crucial part of developer learning

26% of respondents learned new skills in hackathons. When you compare that to 35% of people who say they’re getting on the job training it’s easy to see just how important a role hackathons play in the professional development of developers. A similar proportion (24.3%) said coding competitions were also an important part of their technical education. When you put the two together, there’s obvious evidence that software learning is happening in the community more than in the workplace. Arguably, today’s organizations are growing and innovating on the back of developer curiosity and ingenuity.

Transgender and non-binary programmers contribute to open source at high rates

This probably will go largely unnoticed but it’s worth underlining this. It was, in fact, one of the Stack Overflow survey’s highlights: “developers who identify as transgender and non-binary contribute to open source at higher rates (58% and 60%, respectively) than developers who identify as men or women overall (45% and 33%).” This is a great statistic and one that’s important to recognize among the diversity problems within technology. It is, perhaps, a positive signal, that things are changing.


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