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Engineering Ethics The Impact of Technology on Society
Culture • The act of developing the intellectual and moral facilities, especially by education. • The integrated pattern of human behavior that includes thought, speech, action and artifacts on man’s capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.
Culture Is Determined by the Context or Paradigm. • The context or paradigm determines our assumptions, values and beliefs. • Our assumptions, values and beliefs determines our ethical choices. • Technology has been based on the Newtonian/Cartesian (linear) paradigm.
The Newtonian/Cartesian (Linear) Paradigm • Atomistic: leads to reductionism, separation or fragmentation. • Deterministic: leading to cause and effect. • Subject/object dualism: observation does not affect the system being observed, and that the laws governing a system’s behavior can be deduced from “objective” empirical observations (objectivism).
Human Values • Physical and social sciences. • Philosophy. • Religion. • Indigenous cultures. • Family. • Community. • Nation. • Etc.
The Origins of Western Philosophy • The Greek Philosophers: • Socrates (469-399 B.C.E.). • Plato (427-347 B.C.E.). • Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.).
Philosophy and Ethics Ethics based on a universal set of rules and principles (after Descartes (1596-1650): • John Locke (1632-1704): Rights Ethics • Immanuel Kant (1724-1804): Duty Ethics • Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) & John Stuart Mill (1806-1873): Utilitarianism
Virtue Ethics • Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.). Virtue Ethics & The Golden Mean: Moral virtues are tendencies, acquired through habit formation, to reach proper balance between extremes in conduct. • Alasdair MacIntyre (1984): Virtues and Practices: Cooperative activitiesaimed at achieving social “goods.”
Contemporary Philosophy • Rule-Based or Principled-Based ethics versus Contextual or Situational ethics. • Rule-Based: Belief in a universal set of rules, principles and values. • Contextual/Situational: Based on the context; on the information available in the moment in any given situation.
Contemporary Rule-based Philosophers • John Rawls: A Theory of Justice (1971). • Jurgen Habermas. The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (translated in 1990).
Contextual or SituationalPhilosophers of the “Post-modern”Era (1950-2000) • Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays,Translated 1977. • Charles Taylor, The Ethics of Authenticity,1997. • Richard Rorty, Philosophy and Social Hope,1999. • Francisco Varela, Ethical Know-How,1999. • Hubert Dreyfus, , On the Internet, 2001.
Religion and Ethics • The “Golden Rule” is a basic tenant in almost all religions: Christian, Hindu, Jewish,Confucian, Buddhist, Muslim. • “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”
Religions’ Three Virtues(After Huston Smith) • Humility: to regard oneself as fully one, but not more than one. • Charity: to consider one’s neighbor to be as fully one as you are. • Veracity: the capacity to see things exactly as they are, freed from subjective distortions.
Huston Smith (Continued) Vision—the wisdom traditions’ perception of the ultimate nature of things: • Unity--things are more integrated than we suppose. • Perfection—if things are more integrated, things are also better than they seem. • Mystery—knowledge and ignorance advance lockstep.
Origins of Eastern Philosophy and Religion • Hinduism (ca. 1500 B.C.E) • Taoism (Lao Tzu, ca. 604 B.C.E.) • Buddha (563-483 B.C.E.) • Confucius (551-479 B.C.E.)
Contemporary Eastern Philosophy20th Century Kitaro Nishida, Intuition and Reflection in Self-Consciousness, 1991. Keiji Nishitani, Religion and Nothingness, 1982. Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That, 1988. Ramesh S. Balseker, Advaita, the Buddha and the Unbroken Whole, 2000. Dalai Lama, Ethics for the New Millennium,1999.
Indigenous Cultures • Mary Evelyn Tucker and John A. Grim, Worldviews and Ecology: Religion, Philosophy and the Environment, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 5th. Printing, 2000. • Primal Religions (e.g Native American, Amazonian, Aboriginal, etc.).
Utilitarianism • Engineering and technological decision making, for the most part, are based on derivatives of utilitarianism. • A basic tenant of utilitarianism is: the greatest good for the greatest number. • This gives rise to economic determinism as manifest in cost/benefit and risk/benefit analyses.
Cost/benefit and Risk/benefit • Insurance: how much am I willing to spend each year to insure my house, car, life? • Energy: what risks am I willing to take for the benefit of 1,000 MWe among a coal, natural gas, or nuclear power plant? • Medical: how many lives can I save by inoculating all children against polio and what are the costs and risks?
Drawbacks of Utilitarianism • Only the total good, and not it’s distribution among people, is relevant to moral choice. • Difficulty in attempting to quantify the greatest good. • Utilitarianism tends to be anthropocentric. • Utilitarianism judges by consequences.
An Alternative View • John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (1971). • Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar system of liberty for all. • Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both: (a) to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged, and (b) attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity.
Science and Ethics • The scientific method. • Professional ethics. • E.O. Wilson and sociobiology. • Abraham Maslow and psychology.
Homework #2 • What are the differences between Industrial Age Technologies (e.g. automobiles) and Information Age Technologies (genetically modified organisms) regarding undesireable consequences and unintended impacts?