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Engineering Ethics


Engineering Ethics Professionalism and Ethics Engineering Profession Engineering is... the profession in which a knowledge of the mathematical and natural sciences ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Engineering Ethics

Engineering Ethics
Professionalism and Ethics
Engineering Profession
  • Engineering is...
  • the profession in which a knowledge of the
    mathematical and natural sciences gained by
    study, experience, and practice is applied with
    judgment to develop ways to utilize,
    economically, the materials and forces of nature
    for the benefit of mankind.
  • Accreditation Board for
    Engineering and Technology (ABET)

  • specialized knowledge gained by
  • study
  • experience
  • practice
  • comprehensive education
  • motivated by a strong desire to serve humanity

Engineering As a Profession
  • Satisfies indispensable and beneficial need
  • Discretion and judgment, not subject to
  • Knowledge and skill not commonly possessed by the
    general public
  • Group consciousness promotes knowledge,
    professional ideas, social services
  • Legal status
  • Well-formulated standards of admission
  • Code of Ethics

Exercise PAIRS
  • Why should engineers follow a code of ethics?
  • Two minutes

Engineers as Professionals
  • Unlike other professionals (e.g., attorneys,
    physicians), engineers seldom deal directly with
    those who benefit from their services.
  • Unlike other professionals, engineers can
    practice with only a BS. (Note MS is
    increasingly important.)

Professional Ethics
  • Ethics is the study of the morality of human
  • Professional ethics guides the conduct of a
  • Most technical societies have written codes of

Engineering Ethics
  • Engineering is a profession similar to law,
    medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy
  • Employer (or client) often cannot assess the
    quality of the engineers work. So the
    obligations are part of engineering ethics , the
    set of behavioral standard
  • All human being has ethical standard

Team Exercise
  • List as many professions as you can.
  • In 5 minutes, list as many traits of a profession
    as you can.
  • Discuss what kind of ethics each profession
  • Summarize and present to the class

1. Interaction Rules of Behavior
  • Etiquette
  • Laws
  • Morals
  • Ethics

  • Rules of acceptable personal behavior and
    courtesy when interacting with others in a social
  • Table manner, dress codes, seating arrangements,
    party manner
  • Violation doesnt cause jail term, but can hurt

  • a system of rules and punishments clearly defined
    and established by a society to maintain a safe
    and orderly social environment.
  • Established by authority, society, or custom
  • Violations carry penalties
  • Could be arbitrary, such as drinking age, driving
  • Legal rights are just claims given to to all
    human within a government jurisdiction, and/or by

  • Personal rules of right and wrong behavior
    derived from a persons upbringing, religious
    beliefs, and societal influences.
  • Cultural or religious gambling, alcohol, meat,
    coffee, cigarette, etc immoral?
  • Controversy about moral issue e.g. health care
    right to all people.

Team Exercise
  • Do engineers have conflict with moral rights?
  • Example, construction of dams or highways that
    destroy ecosystem engineering military
    application stem cell issue, etc
  • Discuss about one issue and present your teams

  • A code or system of rules defining moral behavior
    for a particular society.
  • Ethics is the study of the morality of human
  • Professional ethics guide the conduct of a
  • Most technical societies have written codes of

Law vs. Morality
  • Lawmakers try to formulate laws that are
    consistent with morality
  • Some problems
  • The legal system has not considered the situation
  • A chemical company released a waste that is
    carcinogenic. Because it is a new product , it
    is not listed on the government list. It is not
    illegal, but immoral

Law vs. Morality
  • 2. Encoding some moral standards into law would
    be unenforceable
  • During prohibition, enforcement was not
  • 3. Laws must be impartial and treat everyone the
  • Government purchase moral behavior easily can be
    illegal if not followed by regulations cant
    simply buy and reimburse for convenience

Law vs. Morality
  • 4. Laws must govern observable behavior
  • In some moral codes, to think a bad thought is
    equivalent to having performed, e.g. Bible cant
    be laws
  • 5. Laws may be enacted by immoral regimes
  • Nazi forbade hiding Jews during WW II. Breaking
    the law and hide innocent Jews were moral

2. Settling Conflicts
  • A major purpose of interaction rules is to avoid
    conflicts between members of society, e.g. which
    side to drive
  • Must determine the source of conflict

Settling Conflicts
Conflicts due to human interactions Moral
Issue Conceptual Issue Applications
Issue Factual Issue
Increasingly Abstract
Moral Issues
  • Issue can be resolved only by making a moral
  • Example
  • When automobile first introduced,
  • Should drivers be able to drive any speed they
    want for their pleasure or business?
  • Should limit speed for safety of other people?

Conceptual Issues
  • When the morality of an action is agreed upon,
    but there is uncertainty about how it should be
    codified into a clearly defined law, rule, or
  • An issue that can be resolved by a clear
  • Speeding is...
  • Without adverse driving conditions
  • speed gt 70 mph
  • With adverse driving conditions
  • speeds that will cause an accident

Application Issues
  • When it is unclear if a particular act violates a
    law, rule, or policy
  • Questions resulting when a definition is applied
    to an actual case
  • Example
  • The road is slick from a light rain. Is John
    speeding when he skids off the road when
    traveling 55 mph on a highway posted for 70 mph?

Factual Issues
  • When there is uncertainty about morally relevant
  • A morally relevant issue that can be resolved by
    gathering more facts.
  • Example
  • A motorist was stopped by driving 60 mph on the
    road posted 55 mph maximum speed. The driver
    insists he drove 55 mph. Which was out of
    calibration, the police radar gun or my

3. Moral Theories
  • There is no moral algorithm that always lead us
    to the correct answer
  • Tools for resolving moral issues are
  • Ethical Egoism
  • Utilitarianism
  • Rights Analysis
  • These different theories may lead to different

Ethical Egoism
  • An act is moral provided that you act in your
    enlightened self interest
  • Example
  • Its okay to kill an attacker in self-defense.
  • Its okay to compete aggressively in the business
    world, provided you do not break the law or
    ethical codes.
  • Government officer taking bribes in a long run,
    he will be caught and be fired. It is not good
    for his self-interest

  • Do the most good for the most people

Brakes fail. Which way to turn?
Utilitarianism cont
  • Optimize the happiness objective function which
  • S (benefitimportance)-S (harmimportance)
  • Example
  • Government officer accepting bribe for building
  • Benefit officer, contractor benefit
  • Harm death if the bldg collapses
  • The harm overwhelms

Utilitarianism cont
  • It is logical and appealing to engineers
  • Evaluation of the happiness objective function is
    not easy
  • Value judgments to assess the importance of each
  • It may lead to injustice for individuals (e.g.
    eminent domain)

Rights Analysis
  • Golden Rule
  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto
  • Problem
  • how a manager can layoff an employee if the
    company needs.
  • If one person doesnt care (e.g. bad jokes), but
    other people hurts

Rights Analysis cont
  • Revised Golden Rule
  • Do unto others as they would have done unto them
  • If somebody doesnt like, dont do it
  • Problem
  • A judge would not be able to send criminals to
    jail because they dont want to go to jail
  • Can parents force something good to their

Rights Analysis cont
  • Because all rights are equally important, there
    should be hierarch
  • Rights Hierarchy
  • 1. Life, physical integrity, mental health
  • 2. Maintain purposeful fulfillment (rights not
    to be robbed, defames, cheated or deceived)
  • 3. Increase purposeful fulfillment (right to
    self-respect, acquire property, etc)

Rights Analysis cont
  • Determine the target audience
  • Evaluate the seriousness of the rights
    infringement according to the hierarch
  • Choose the course of action that imposes the
    least serious right infringement
  • Taking bribe case
  • the officer lead to fulfilling life
  • If building collapses, peoples right for life

  • A kidnapper has taken a person hostage and
    threaten to kill him. The police become involved
    and lay a trap that involves deceptions.
  • Is the action of police moral?

When moral theories diverge
  • If moral theories do agree, they converge if
    not, they diverge
  • Examples
  • During construction of a highway, several houses
    are condemned
  • Utilitarian society benefits
  • Rights approach individual rights violated

When moral theories diverge
  • Examples
  • A sickly brother has a rare disease that only
    his brothers organ transplant can save him. But
    his brother refuses
  • Utilitarian saving life benefit exceeds the
    desire to be healthy of his brother
  • Rights approach his brothers right not to be

4. The Ethical Engineer
  • As professionals, engineers have a code of ethics

Team Exercise
  • In two minutes, explain why is it important for
    engineers to have a code of ethics?

Fundamental Principles
  • Professional Ethics for Engineers published by
    the Accreditation Board for Engineering and
    Technology (ABET)
  • Fundamental Principles - defines ethical behavior
  • Fundamental Canons - expands Fundamental
    Principles with a set if rules
  • Preamble and Four Parts

Fundamental Principles
  • Engineers uphold and advance the integrity, honor
    and dignity of the engineering profession by
  • I. using their knowledge and skill for the
    enhancement of human welfare
  • II. being honest and impartial, and serving with
    fidelity the public, their employers and clients
  • III. striving to increase the competence and
    prestige of the engineering profession and
  • IV. supporting the professional and technical
    societies of their disciplines.

Fundamental Canons
  • Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health
    and welfare of the public in the performance of
    their professional duties.
  • Engineers shall perform services only in the
    areas of their competence.
  • Engineers shall issue public statements only in
    an objective and truthful manner.
  • Engineers shall act in professional matters for
    each employer or client as faithful agents or
    trustees, and shall avoid conflicts of interest.

Fundamental Canons
  • Engineers shall build professional reputation on
    the merit of their services and shall not compete
    unfairly with others.
  • Engineers shall act in such a manner as to uphold
    and enhance the honor, integrity and dignity of
    the profession.
  • Engineers shall continue their professional
    development throughout their careers and shall
    provide opportunities for the professional
    development of those engineers under their

Other Guidelines
  • Inform the proper authorities of harmful,
    dangerous, or illegal activities
  • Be involved with civic and community affairs
  • Protect the environment
  • Do not accept bribes, or gifts that would
    interfere with engineering judgment
  • Protect confidential information of employer or
  • Avoid conflict of interest

Conflict of Interest
  • A situation in which an engineers loyalties and
    obligations may be compromised because of
    self-interest or other loyalties and obligations
  • Avoid the appearance of impropriety
  • For example, you are purchasing agent and your
    wifes firm is applying for a contract, you
    better avoid the situation or declare

Whistle Blowing
  • Inform the proper authorities of harmful,
    dangerous, or illegal activities
  • Conflict between obligation to society vs
    obligation to fellow worker and employer
  • Could be alienated and ostracized, demoted or be
    fired protection required
  • Select employer carefully

Case Study Example
  • Actions Affecting Human Life
  • A leather manufacturer disposes of dangerous
    leather-cleaning chemicals in the river causing
    the citys water to be contaminated with
  • What should the owner of the plant do?

Ethical Canons
  • Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health
    and welfare of the public in the performance of
    their professional duties.

5. Resource Allocation
  • Engineers are often responsible for allocating
    limited funds to projects.
  • These projects may affect the general health and
    safety of the public.
  • These projects may have detrimental effects on
    some segments of the population.

Team Exercise
  • A highway engineer has 1 million to spend on
    guardrails for roads (14.5 miles worth, 20 yrs
    service life). There are two candidate roads to
    be considered. Which one do you select?
  • A scenic two-lane through the mountains. If a
    car falls off the cliff, there is a certain death
    for passenger. 20 cars per day traffic. There are
    0.01 encroachment per mile per year.
  • A four-lane highway on fairly level ground. If a
    car is off the road, there is 10 chance of
    death. 22,000 cars per day traffic. There are 3
    encroachment per mile per year.

Team Exercise
  • Encroachment means a car drive off the road
  • Calculate cost per life saved
  • Cost scenic(1 million/20 years)(yrmile/0.01
    encroachment)(encroachment/1 life saved)(1/14.5
    miles)344,827/life saved
  • Similarly Cost highway(1 million/20
    years)(yrmile/3 encroachment)(encroachment/0.1
    life saved)(1/14.5 miles)11,494/life saved
  • Money on highway is better spent

  • Legislation to reduce the amount of carcinogens
    released by the chemical industry. How much
    money should be spent for pollution control?
  • What is the value of a human life? If infinite
    value, then a chemical company must spend
    billions of dollars. The company may not exist

  • In U.S., about 43,000 people die in traffic.
    Each of us has one chance in 7000 of being killed
    in an auto accident
  • Exercise
  • Average car costs 15,000, but once in 700 chance
    of fatal accident during 10-year life of car
  • A safer car, BMW or VOLVO, costs 40,000, and
    once in 1400 chance of death during 10-year
  • What is the value of your life if you decide to
    spend more money for your car?

Example cont
  • If 14000 people buy BMW, one person may die by
    accident. People spent 56 million
  • If 14000 people buy the average car, spend 21
    million, and 2 person die
  • By spending extra 35 million, one life can be
  • The value of a life could be 35 million for this

Resource Allocations cont
  • The value of a life
  • The amount of lost wages due to an untimely death
  • Ransom payment to kidnappers
  • The amount of extra wages worker demands for
    extra risky job
  • About 200,000 to 8 million
  • Average American assesses his life at 6 miilion

Resource Allocations cont
  • When designing products, safety in mind
  • The money engineers must spend depends upon
  • whether the product user voluntarily accepts the
  • the amount of benefit the user derives from the

Team Exercise
  • Which one demands more strict safety standards?
    Why? Which is more dangerous actually?

Team Exercise comments
  • Car
  • voluntarily take risks
  • People think benefit outweigh the risk
  • Nuclear plant
  • if radiation released, anyone could be exposed
    (not voluntary)
  • No particular conception of benefit for
    electrical energy