Ethics: Are we misusing the terms "master-slave". Do we even have a community / forum in which we can discuss this?

The recent world wide considerations of the diversity challenges in our society has highlighted that we in Engineering can be perpetuating some of the derogatory terms implicit within our use of "Master-Slave" for purely inanimate technical control scenarios. [1 - N]


We have policies on slavery that every volunteer, staff member and Trustee must read and abide to, but it appears we haven't noticed, to any significant extent, our own continued use of "slave" in our writings.


Do we even have a community or forum in which we can discuss this ethical, and publishing issue?


Philip Oakley

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-53273923

[2] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3243656.stm

[3] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-53050955

[4 ] http://www.jstor.com/stable/40061475   "Broken Metaphor: The Master-Slave Analogy in Technical Literature"

[5] https://www.theiet.org/involved/volunteering-for-the-iet/volunteer-hub/our-policies/anti-slavery-policy/


Aside: Is there some tick box to get notifications of replies sent?
  • Are you looking for a problem where one doesn't exist ?


    Regards


    OMS
  • > Are you looking for a problem where one doesn't exist ?


    Isn't that assertion just ignoring a hazard, without reasonable adaption, in the hope that nobody of alleged importance notices?

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  • OMS:

    Are you looking for a problem where one doesn't exist ?


    Regards


    OMS


    It looks like enough people consider it to be a problem that people are doing something about it.


    When writing software, I prefer terms such as manager-worker.  This conveys the same meaning without the historical baggage and potential to offend.


  • Philip Oakley:

    Isn't that assertion just ignoring a hazard, without reasonable adaption, in the hope that nobody of alleged importance notices?

     


    Not really, Phil - if people are determined enough to be offended, then they will be. For the rest of us, it's pretty easy to see the term without immediate offense taken, because none was intended.


    Regards


    OMS



  • When writing software, I prefer terms such as manager-worker.  This conveys the same meaning without the historical baggage and potential to offend.




    Really ? - doesn't it make all sorts of assumptions about managers and workers and who is who and what value each has ?


    Regards


    OMS


  • OMS:
    Philip Oakley:

    Isn't that assertion just ignoring a hazard, without reasonable adaption, in the hope that nobody of alleged importance notices?

     


    Not really, Phil - if people are determined enough to be offended, then they will be. For the rest of us, it's pretty easy to see the term without immediate offense taken, because none was intended.

     



    However I expect you will be careful not to use Hitler, Adolf, Fuhrer, etc in posts as offence is likely be taken (Godwin's law..)

    People are not offended by considered communication. It's the misuse and incorrect association that causes problems. Inanimate objects can't be slaves.


    In the past folks have used innocuous words in deliberately racist manner where context is used to convey the derogatory meaning. Removal of the opportunity to miss-contextualise these phrases by using simple phrases which better express the correct engineering intent should be the goal.


    Hence my question asking about the correct IET forum for our published literature guidelines, and Ethical phrasing guidelines.
  • I would have thought that if you wanted a community opinion, "Ask the Community" would be a reasonable choice.


    As for master/slave, I agree with OMS, if people want to see offence they will, I do not find it offensive.  I gather the term "blacklist" is now to be deprecated, and the little mermaid statue in Copenhagen has been labeled " racist fish".  The world has gone mad.


    David


  • davidwalker2:


    As for master/slave, I agree with OMS, if people want to see offence they will, I do not find it offensive.

    The problem that occurred in the past was the misuse of such terms (and commonly other terms) in a context to positively imply a racial intent. By changing away from incorrectly used words, such as "slave" being an inanimate object, we switch from providing a vicious circle of phrasing, to a more virtuous ethic.
  • weirdbeard:


    Member is a derogatory term?


    In the wrong context... See various current articles about certain Sports club trainers/coaches and their actions to certain players. 


  • I think the mermaid thing is somebody's idea of a joke.


    But for a bunch of white people on this forum to say "I don't think master/slave is offensive" is possibly missing the point.