I built software to kill people talk

In 2011, with a team of interns at a Department of Defense contractor, Caleb created a Wi-Fi geolocation app to locate hotspots. It could find the location in 3D space of every hotspot near you in seconds. His team made formulas to model signal strength and probable distances. They used machine learning to optimize completion time and accuracy. He was so caught up in the details that it took months to see it would be used to kill people. What do we do when we discover that we're building something immoral or unethical? How can we think through the uses of our software to avoid this problem entirely?


Caleb Thompson Engineer / Ruby Task Force Member, Heroku

Caleb is a dreamer, speaker, and computer whisperer. He organizes the Keep Ruby Weird conference, which of course you’ve heard of and are very impressed by. When he’s not painting miniatures or climbing cliffs to jump off into the water, he works for Heroku and codes in Ruby and Go. He walked barefoot from the wintry tundra of Alaska to the harsh deserts of Arizona. Okay, that’s not true, but he did live in those places. He currently hails from Austin, TX—the taco capital of the United States.

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I built software to kill people

In 2011, with a team of interns at a Department of Defense contractor, Caleb created a Wi-Fi geolocation app to locate hotspots. It could find the location in 3D space of every hotspot near you in seconds. His team made formulas to model signal strength and probable distances. They used machine learning to optimize completion time and accuracy. He was so caught up in the details that it took months to see it would be used to kill people. What do we do when we discover that we're building something immoral or unethical? How can we think through the uses of our software to avoid this problem entirely?

Caleb Thompson

Engineer / Ruby Task Force Member, Heroku

Caleb is a dreamer, speaker, and computer whisperer. He organizes the Keep Ruby Weird conference, which of course you’ve heard of and are very impressed by. When he’s not painting miniatures or climbing cliffs to jump off into the water, he works for Heroku and codes in Ruby and Go. He walked barefoot from the wintry tundra of Alaska to the harsh deserts of Arizona. Okay, that’s not true, but he did live in those places. He currently hails from Austin, TX—the taco capital of the United States.

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