Center for Advanced Studies in Engineering
Professional Ethics
Lecture – 2 b
Shahid Iqbal
Sep 2012
Introduction: some cases
• 1912: Titanic
Introduction: some cases
• 1973: Ford Pinto : Fuel System design
Introduction: some cases
• 1974: DC 10 Turkish jet crashes near Paris, killing 345
Introduction: some cases
• 1984: Bhopal Accident (India): Chemical Plant
Introduction: some cases
• 1986: Challenger Space Shuttle Disaster
Introduction: some cases
• 1986: Tchernobyl: Nuclear Power Plant Disaster
Introduction: some cases
• 1987 : Herald of Free Enterprise (Zeebrugge, Be)
Introduction: some cases
• 1998 : ICE Train Accident in Eschede (Germany)
Introduction: some cases
• 2000: Concorde Crash (Paris)
Introduction: some cases
2006 : Maglev Train Accident in Lathen (Germany)
Introduction: some cases
• 2004 : Millau Viaduct (France)
Introduction: some cases
2008 : Boeing 787 vs Airbus 380?
Introduction: some cases
- Incidents, Accidents, Disasters only?
- More risky technology? Less risky
- Responsibility: the company or the engineer?
- Economics vs ethics?
- …
Engineering Ethics
Teaching engineering ethics : to acquire the following
moral competences:
1. Moral sensibility: the ability to recognize social and ethical
issues in technology
2. Moral analysis skills: the ability to analyse moral problems
in terms of facts, values, stakeholders and their interests
3. Moral creativity: the ability to think out different options for
action in the light of (conflicting) moral values and the
relevant facts;
Engineering Ethics
Teaching engineering ethics : to acquire the following
moral competences:
4. Moral judgment skills: the ability to give a moral judgment
on the basis of different ethical theories or frameworks
including professional ethics and common sense morality
5. Moral decision-making skills: the ability to reflect on
different ethical theories and frameworks and to make a
decision based on that reflection
6. Moral argumentation skills: the ability to morally justify
one’s actions and to discuss and evaluate them together
with other engineers and non-engineers
Engineering Ethics
Code of Ethics for Engineers
I. Fundamental Canons
Engineers, in the fulfillment of their professional duties,
– Hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the
public in the performance of their professional duties.
– Perform services only in areas of their competence.
– Issue public statements only in an objective and truthful
– Act in professional matters for each employer or client
as faithful agents or trustees.
– Avoid deceptive acts in the solicitation of professional
(ref. Martin and Schinzinger, pg 352)
Personal Ethics - Everyday Examples
Software piracy
Expense account padding
Copying of homework or tests
Income taxes
“Borrowing” nuts and bolts, office supplies from
Copying of Videos or CD’s
Using the copy machine at work
Engineering Ethics
1. Discussing ethics is not against technology, nor against
“progress”, but failures, disasters, accidents, misuse of
technology in the past, with or without conscience
intentions, by engineers must open the discussion about
“good” technology and the orientation and direction of
what is meant by “technological progress”.
2. Ethics has a long tradition that can help in this evolution.
Recent evolutions on “business ethics” and engineering
ethics” proof this.
3. Ethics and technique should be partners in the struggle
for a better world.
Engineering Ethics
Even the new kind of legislation (e.g. European
Directives) opens this debate: since 1992 Europe asks
to implement the “precautionary principle”.
Legislation is less casuistic, and presents more
frameworks that invite the ‘actors’ to behave as “good
housekeepers”, to make a choice for “the best
available technology”, to sustain “sustainable”
technology,…: an invitation to engineers to use their
‘genius’, their creativity by difficult choices
Engineering Ethics
Big corporations, companies, organizations,… have
introduced the ethical option (“Corporate Social
Responsibility”): its necessary to cope with problems
that raise on a more global scale than ever.
No professional engineer can ignore this. There will be
no place for “free riders”, otherwise this planet will be
a disaster for the next generation. Will engineers join
their companies in that direction? Will engineers
influence the decision makers in a ‘good’ direction?
Are they only executives of orders from elsewhere?
Engineering Ethics
Engineers (< geniuses!) have the knowledge, the
ability, the creativity and the capacity to make changes
for a better world: on a small scale or on a large scale.
Will they lack the courage?
It’s a choice: to be in the vanguard of the peloton (with
a lot of wind against you), in the peloton (safe and sure)
or at the rear-guard to cope with the problems caused
by the peloton, frustrated?