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  1. Part 2 Ethics and Technology

  2. Objectives • 1. Examine the relationship between ethics and technology. • 2. Describe science or technology based ethical issues and conflicts. • 3. Define technology. • 4. Discuss different ways that technology can create a positive impact on society.

  3. Ethics • Ethics is a general term used to describe the study and evaluation of human conduct in the light of moral principles (bartleby.com). • Three kinds of ethical issues faced by practicing engineers: • 1. Distributive Justice: Should an engineer proceed with a feasible project that is likely to expose people to a non trivial degree of risk to their safety, health, or property. • For example, should an engineering company accept a contract to erect a hydro electric dam in a geologically unstable area near a rural village?

  4. Ethics • 2. Whistle-Blowing: Engineers or scientists may become aware of deliberate actions or negligence on the part of their colleagues or employers that may pose a threat to public interest (public safety, public money, etc.) • At Morton Thiocol Inc. (MTI) several engineers working on the Challenger Space Shuttle booster project tried to convince management that a January 1986 launch should not be authorized since an O ring seal on the booster rocket had not been tested at the unusually cold temperature prevailing on the day of the tragedy. The company and NASA authorized the launch. • Engineers that have gone public have got little legal protection against employer retaliation.

  5. Ethics • 3. Consideration of Long Term Effects: Engineers focus on designing, producing, or installing equipment without considering the long term effects.


  6. Problems of Communication • Ethical issues faced by technical practitioners: • 1. Fraud: Falsification of data may come from a desire for fame and recognition, job security and promotion belief in a theory, and laziness. • 2. Misrepresentation: Failure to credit deserving contributors and/or over crediting undeserving contributors.

  7. Ethics and Technology • Technology is a collection of methods and artifacts created by human beings to increase their control over the environment in which they operate. • When the automobile was first introduced, a hundred years ago, it was hailed as a solution to the transportation problem and as a defense against growing pollution of horse dung. • With horses, used for transportation, came horse dung, and it was everywhere (hundred years ago). • Yet today, we view the automobile as a chief (air) pollution source. • Again and again we see in the industrialized world the adoption of a technology that results in future problems.

  8. The Unanticipated Consequences of Technology • Consequences may be: • 1. Anticipated: Intended and desired; or not desired, but common or probable; or not desired and improbable. • 2. Unanticipated: Desirable or undesirable. • Example: A nuclear power plant near a ocean. • Anticipated and good consequence is the production of electric power. • An undesired but expected consequence is the heating of water near the power plant. • An unforeseen and undesirable consequence may be the evolution of a new species of predator fish in the warmed ocean water, which destroys existing desired species.

  9. The Unanticipated Consequences of Technology • Why do we have unintended consequences: • Because of: complexity, dynamics, or ignorance or mistaken hypothesis. • Example: The Internet, a dynamic system with no one in charge. One unintended result is junk email.

  10. The Unanticipated Consequences of Technology • Example: Microwave oven • 1. Took food preparation out of the home and into an automated factory. • 2. Made cooking a matter of choice, not of necessity. • 3. Made the dining table outmoded as each member of the family can individually heat up his or her own meal, when they require it.

  11. Genetically Modified Food • About 75% of processed food that is produced on the United States contains some genetically modified (GM) ingredients (for about a decade). • Over 80% of the soybeans and 40% of the corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified. • Genetically modified crops have increased agricultural production and productivity.

  12. Conclusion • Technology allows us to transport people more quickly, communicate in various formats (phone, email, etc.), warm up our food rapidly in a microwave, and access stored data efficiently (computer). • How does our moral development affect our ethical decision making? • The goal of part 2 is for you to evaluate your role in utilizing technology, and the ethical choices you make in using technology.

  13. Home Work • 1. Name the 3 kinds of ethical issues faced by practicing engineers? • 2. What is technology? • 3. Explain with an example– “Again and again we see in the industrialized world the adoption of a technology that results in future problems”. • 4. What is the advantage of genetically modified crops?