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Engineering Ethics. Originally Presented by Prof. Rick Vaz Modified by Prof. Bitar ECE 2799 – LAST UPDATE: 12-12-13. A Classic Case…. 1980 Ford Pinto.

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engineering ethics

Engineering Ethics

Originally Presented by Prof. Rick Vaz

Modified by Prof. Bitar

ECE 2799 – LAST UPDATE: 12-12-13

1980 ford pinto
1980 Ford Pinto


1978 ford cost benefit analysis
1978 Ford Cost-Benefit Analysis...
  • Unsafe tanks would cause…
    • 180 burn deaths,
    • 180 serious burn injuries
    • 2,100 burned vehicles each year.
  • Total Liability: $49.5 million per year.
  • Redesign: $137 million per year.

(in 1978 dollars)

pr nightmare for ford
PR Nightmare for Ford

Thank You Ralph Nader !!!!

decisions in engineering through the years
Decisions in Engineering Through the Years
  • 1978: Ford sells “Pinto” despite known design problem with gas tank—hundreds die
  • 1984: Union Carbide ignores Bhopal safety procedures—2,000 die; 200,000 injured
  • 1986: Challenger launched in cold despite O-ring concerns—crew dies, $ billions spent, space program derailed
more decisions through the years
More Decisions Through the Years
  • 2010: Student uses pirated software
  • 2011: Student copies homework assignment
  • 2012: Student plagiarizes part of IQP
  • 2013: Student signs MQP report despite not doing fair share of work—partners cover for him
  • 2013: WPI grants student ECE Degree
  • 2013: Raytheon hires student to design Air Traffic Control Systems
the law of sowing and reaping
The Law of Sowing and Reaping
  • Sow a Thought, Reap an Action.
  • Sow an Action, Reap a Habit.
  • Sow a Habit, Reap your Character.
  • Sow your Character, Reap your Destiny.

“Character Determines Destiny”Heraclitus of Ephesus 500 BC

a context for today s discussion
A Context for Today’s Discussion
  • Your “professional career” has already begun…
  • You are already expressing your ethical standards; they are what you do…
  • Contrary to popular belief, personal and professional ethics cannot be separated, without imposing an ethical dilemma …
some difficult questions
Some Difficult Questions
  • When is a lie justified?
  • When is it OK to break the law?
  • When do the ends justify the means?
  • When does public interest override profit?
  • Will you be a whistleblower?
real world ethical problems
Real-World Ethical Problems

“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice... In practice, there is.”Yogi Berra

  • Rarely is there clear “right” or “wrong”
  • Often you are choosing between competing interests, both of which matter
a simple google search reveals
A Simple Google Search Reveals:
  • Online Ethics Center for Engineering & Science
  • NIEE (National Institute for Engineering Ethics)
  • NSPE (National Society of Professional Engineers)
  • IEEE (and many others) Code of Ethics
  • Web Clearinghouse for Engineering and Computing Ethics
  • Course and resource pages at many universities (ABET requirement)
core ethical values niee
Core Ethical Values (NIEE)
  • Integrity: good judgment, adherence to principles
  • Honesty: truthfulness, fairness, sincerity
  • Fidelity: to clients, to the public trust, to employer, to the profession
  • Charity: kindness, caring, good will, tolerance, compassion/mercy, adherence to the Golden Rule
  • Responsibility: reliability/dependability, accountability, trustworthiness
  • Self-Discipline: acting with restraint, not indulging in excessive behavior
ieee code of ethics
IEEE Code of Ethics

“We, the members of the IEEE, in recognition of the importance of our technologies in affecting the quality of life throughout the world, and in accepting a personal obligation to our profession, its members and the communities we serve, do hereby commit ourselves to the highest ethical and professional conduct and agree:

1. to accept responsibilityin making engineering decisions consistent with the safety, health and welfare of the public, and to disclose promptly factors that might endanger the public or the environment;

2. to avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest whenever possible, and to disclose them to affected parties when they do exist;

3. to be honest and realistic in stating claims or estimates based on available data;

4. to reject bribery in all its forms;

ieee code of ethics cont d
IEEE Code of Ethics, cont’d

5. to improve the understanding of technology, its appropriate application, and potential consequences;

6. to maintain and improve our technical competence and to undertake technological tasks for others only if qualified by training or experience, or after full disclosure of pertinent limitations;

7. to seek, accept, and offer honest criticism of technical work, to acknowledge and correct errors, and to credit properly the contributions of others;

8. to treat fairly all persons regardless of such factors as race, religion, gender, disability, age, or national origin;

9. to avoid injuring others, their property, reputation, or employment by false or malicious action;

10. to assist colleagues and co-workers in their professional development and to support them in following this code of ethics.”

example moral standard the categorical imperative immanuel kant 1724 1804
Example Moral Standard:The Categorical Imperative(Immanuel Kant, 1724-1804)

“Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.”

using the categorical imperative to judge an action
Using the Categorical Imperative to Judge an Action
  • Convert the action to a principle
  • Would it be logical for you to wanteveryone to follow that principle?
    • Yes—action is moral
    • No—action is immoral
  • Kant’s favorite examples
    • Suicide
    • False promises
    • Failing to develop one’s abilities
    • Refusing to be charitable
moral codes what is your basis for judging right from wrong
Moral Codes … What is your basis for judging right from wrong?
  • “The Ten Commandments”
  • “Eye for an Eye”
  • “The Golden Rule” (the foundation for many codes of ethics)
  • Others?
things you can do to avoid ethical dilemmas in your career
Things you can do to avoid ethical dilemmas in your career…
  • Think about your own beliefs and values and adopt a code of ethics you believe in.
  • Ask a potential employer what their core values are and what they stand for, before accepting a job.
  • Make it clear, where you stand.
  • Work for something you believe in.

“If he’s going to be stupid enough to leave it out, I’m not going to be stupid enough not to take it….”

ethics as design caroline whitbeck
“Ethics as Design”—Caroline Whitbeck
  • Analyzing the situation is not enough
    • You must do something that resolves the issue
  • Ethical problems require practical design
    • Constraints, objectives, criteria
  • There may not even be a “solution”
    • But usually, there are many
  • There is no unique “right answer”
    • There are plenty of “bad answers”
    • Some answers are better than others
designing a solution
Designing a Solution
  • Define the problem
    • What’s known? What’s ambiguous?
  • Explore solutions
    • Brainstorm—go beyond the obvious
  • Consider criteria
    • Moral standards, professional standards, laws
  • Consider consequences
    • Professional, personal, legal, moral