There was an interesting article in Nature, arguing that our moral intuitions are formed as much by rational deliberation as by our experiences (despite the latter being more en vogue in academic circles - who knew!).
It got me thinking about how in any field (whether it be software development or biology, finance, etc.) people have very finely developed intuitions about what is "right" or "wrong" - something that seems akin to moral judgement. This happens in software development without a doubt - people who have been in the field for a while can have very powerful, immediate, gut reactions to problems - they just know that a certain path is "right" or "wrong".
The question I'm kicking around is, in software development, how are our "moral" intuitions best formed - by rational deliberation (e.g. reading, observing, studying, listening) or personal experience (playing many roles, living in the trenches)? In other words, which route would lead to greater "moral wisdom" - more study or more lived experiences?
(This question is a lot like the kerfuffle about Justice Sotomayor's "wise latina" comments months back - is she more "wise", coming from a rough neighborhood in the Bronx, than someone who came from the upper-middle class 'burbs?)
My sense is that no amount of study or observation can make up for living in the trenches and feeling the pain of bad decisions (your own and others'!). I can read all day about why unit testing is great, but it doesn't sink in to the level of "moral intuition" until I live through an experience where there's a million lines of code, no unit tests, and so no clue as to whether your change broke something else or not.
Anyway, just a thought...