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Engineering Ethics

With material from: Ethics and the Conduct of Business, John Boatright Ethics in Engineering Practice and Research, Caroline Whitbeck ieee.org niee.org wikipedia.org space-shuttle.com

Prof. Rick Vaz

ECE 2799

April 23, 2007

Ethics and Your Education


Accreditation of this ECE program requires that all graduates have an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility

What Ethical Issues Have You Faced

in this course?
in your other courses? in summer jobs? in your daily interactions with friends?

Laws, Morals, Ethics: Whats the Difference?

Laws: A set of rules for personal or corporate behavior; civil and/or criminal penalties apply Morals: A set of standards for (personal) behavior Ethics: A set of standards for (professional) behavior

Morals and ethics are voluntary in some sense Like laws, they are open to many interpretations

What is the Basis for Ethical and Moral Standards?


Innate and intrinsic? A product of culture? Based on religious beliefs? Developed from logical reasoning? Based on concepts? On consequences?

Example Moral Standard:

The Categorical Imperative


(Critique of Pure ReasonImmanuel 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


Convert the action to a principle Would it be logical for you to want everyone to follow that principle?
Yesaction is moral/ethical Noaction is immoral/unethical

Example: is it ever morally acceptable to lie?

How Does Engineering Ethics Relate to Your Life Now?

You are already expressing your ethical standards. They are in what you do. Personal and professional ethics are connected
Ethics is not just doing the right thing, its making tough decisions about ambiguous things

What Is a Profession?

Extensive training, mastery of subject Professional association Standards and codes Self-regulating, via certifications and licensing Significant impact on public welfare Accountability to society

Professional Ethics: More than Following Rules

Maturity of judgment Balancing a variety of considerations Consideration of various means to a desired end Supporting the profession Serving the welfare of the public

A Simple Google Search Reveals:

Online Ethics Center for Engineering & Science National Institute for Engineering Ethics* NSPE Engineering Ethics website Codes of Ethics: IEEE*, ASME, ACM, etc. Web Clearinghouse for Engineering and Computing Ethics Course and resource pages at many universities

What are the Core Ethical Values of Engineering? (NIEE)

Honesty: truthfulness, fairness, sincerity Integrity: good judgment, adherence to principles 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


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 responsibility in 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, contd


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. Approved by the IEEE Board of Directors -- August 1990

Applied Ethics: Real-World Problems


In theory, theres 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

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

What is conflict of interest?


Is conflict of interest common? Is it wrong? What do you do about it?

Software Piracy
Unethical, or Just Illegal?

2/3 of college students report that they do, or would, download pirated software 93% claim to endorse IP rights and legitimate software development
Does this make sense? What role will IP play in your career?

Ethics as DesignCaroline Whitbeck


What distinguishes design from the other engineering you have studied?

Analyzing the situation is not enough Practical constraints, objectives, criteria There may not even be a solution There is no unique right answer

Designing a Solution to an Ethical Dilemma

Define the problem

Whats known? Whats ambiguous?

Explore solutions

Brainstormgo beyond the obvious


Personal values, professional standards, laws Professional, personal, legal, moral

Identify criteria

Consider outcomes and consequences

Whistleblowing
How can you do the right thing and not lose your job?

Dont trust everyone to do the right thingproceed with caution Gather the evidence you need Make sure youre right Dont exaggerate or overstate your case Wait for the right time to come forward Remain anonymousthe problem is the issue, not you
For more, see:
http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/careers/careerstemplate.jsp?ArticleId=w040104

Thinking Ahead

Would you carry a partner through an MQP? If you accept a job, would you turn it down if a better one comes along? Would you accept a job in the defense industry? Would you accept gifts and hospitality from a prospective vendor? What would you do if a co-worker is negligent in his/her work?