Lecture 5: Engineering as Social Experimentation I (Chapter 3, Martin & Schinzinger, ‘Ethics in Engineering) - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Lecture 5: Engineering as Social Experimentation I (Chapter 3, Martin & Schinzinger, ‘Ethics in Engineering)

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Lecture 5: Engineering as Social Experimentation I (Chapter 3, Martin & Schinzinger, Ethics in Engineering) ELEC4011 Ethics & Electrical Engineering Practice – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Lecture 5: Engineering as Social Experimentation I (Chapter 3, Martin & Schinzinger, ‘Ethics in Engineering)


1
Lecture 5 Engineering as Social Experimentation
I(Chapter 3, Martin Schinzinger, Ethics in
Engineering)
  • ELEC4011 Ethics Electrical Engineering Practice
  • Hugh Outhred

2
Introduction
  • Objective
  • Relate ethical theories to engineering practice
  • A useful perspective
  • View engineering activities as social
    experiments
  • Engineers create experimental situations through
    innovation
  • Society participates in these experiments as
    subjects
  • Uncertainty about outcomes implies risk
  • Important to identify quantify risks where
    possible
  • Decision makers may make biased decisions unless
    accountable for (uncertain) outcomes

3
Roles of experimenter subject
  • Ethical issues for engineers as experimenters
  • Duties to experimental subjects
  • Rights of experimental subjects
  • Assessment of costs benefits of the experiment
  • Relationship between experimenter subject
  • Legal framework
  • Legal obligations on experimenter, but these may
    not address innovative situations
  • Codes of ethics
  • Primary responsibility lies with the experimenter

4
The Engineering Process
Concept
  • Corporate
  • context
  • Time pressure
  • Cost pressure
  • Secrecy
  • External context
  • Uncertainty
  • Legal framework
  • Social impacts
  • Environmental impacts

5
Examples
  • Computers
  • Developed adopted over about three decades
  • Significant impacts on society
  • Not well understood or nor always predicted, e.g
  • The Y2K bug
  • However largely accepted as a positive technology
  • Nuclear power stations
  • Developed adopted over about three decades
  • Significant impacts on society
  • Not well understood nor always predicted, eg.
    Chernobyl
  • Widespread concern installed capacity in decline

6
Experimental attributes of engineering
  • Incomplete understanding of implications
  • Insufficient time or money
  • Commercial advantage (desire for secrecy)
  • Uncertainty about impacts (sometimes unknowable)
  • Participation of experimental subjects
  • Products or services often target non-engineers
  • Subjects share responsibility if voluntarily
    accept risk
  • Reasons for monitoring outcomes
  • Commercial purposes (e.g. product improvement)
  • Precautionary purposes (e.g. manage risk)

7
Nature of subjects impacts
  • Subjects
  • Individual consumers, groups or society as a
    whole
  • Those who can make informed choices, and
  • Those requiring advocates
  • Disadvantaged, future generations, other species
    the environment
  • Impacts
  • Health, safety the environment
  • Changes to social structure social status
  • Income wealth distribution
  • Lifestyles personal empowerment
  • Education, culture

8
Features of engineering experiments
  • Absence of a control group ( equivalent
    non-participants)
  • Products services usually offered to all
  • Benefits may such that they cant be withheld
    from a particular group
  • Society may have little prior understanding
  • Innovative products services
  • Uncertainty in future impacts (positive or
    negative)
  • Informed judgements are difficult to make
  • For both experimenter and subject

9
Informed consent
  • Stakeholders
  • Experimental subjects, experimenters, others who
    can affect the outcome, or may be affected by it
  • Stakeholders have a right to informed consent
  • A voluntary conscious decision made on the
    basis of all relevant information
  • Issues
  • Identification of stakeholders (present future)
  • Adequacy of information
  • Decision making opportunity capability

10
Issues for informed consent
  • Voluntary participation not always possible, eg
  • Technology that has widespread effects on the
    public
  • For example, the Y2K bug
  • Future generations or citizens of other countries
  • Stakeholders may be hard to identify, eg
  • Those affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident
  • Proxy group can represent unknown stakeholders
  • Adequate diversity information
  • Adequate decision making competence
  • Strongly differing opinions may hamper consensus

11
Current examples
  • Consideration of an Australian Republic
  • Constitutional convention, referendum
  • Introduction of genetically modified (GM) foods
  • Companies have not always revealed GM ingredients
  • Legal requirements under development
  • Electromagnetic radiation from cellular phones
  • Some companies provide information, headphones
  • Telephone caller ID
  • Defaults on but off would allow informed
    consent

12
Summary
  • Engineering is a form of social experimentation
  • Innovation with social environmental impacts
  • Uncertainty risk in outcomes
  • Stakeholders have a right to informed consent
  • Information, opportunity, decision making
    capability
  • Problems in implementation
  • Lack of a control group corporate pressures
  • Difficulty in identifying stakeholders
  • Irreducible uncertainty
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