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A2 report

Intel Corporation, a leading computer chip manufacturer. Intel’s chip
designs are inside 80% of personal computers. In 1994, there was a flaw chip
crisis in Intel which is considered not only as a public relations problem but also
as an engineering ethics breaching. This report aims to analysis ethical issues of
this crisis base on code of conducts specified by IEEE, Utilitarianism Model and
Duty base Ethics.
In June 1994, Thomas R. Nicely who is a mathematics professor at
Lynchburg College in Virginia, USA determined that the computer was using
Intel Pentium Chip generated an error result when it calculated the complex
numbers. He spent 4 months to redo calculation and stated that, the problem has
related with Pentium chip. In late October 1994, he reported this problem to Intel.
This problem was also discovered by Intel’s engineers during this summer but it
has not been notified to Intel’s customer because Intel believed that the users only
counter this error once in 2700 years of use.
In November 1994, after the broadcasting of this story on mass media, Intel
offered replacement chip only for the customers who could indicate that they had
have an affect relative to a flaw chip. On 12 December 1994, IBM one of the
biggest customers of Intel announced their own testing results and conclude that
the flaw might happen every 24 days, not every 2700 years as Intel’s conclusion.
After one week from IBM’s announcing, Intel decided to replace Pentium chip
for every customer with no question-asked. The CEO of Intel, Andrew Grove
stated “Finally, we decided, ‘this is the right thing to do, both morally and
IEEE stands for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. It is
an association serve professionals involved in all aspects of the electrical,
electronic, and computing science and technology. IEEE have the code of
conducts which regular the behaviours of engineers in its field. According to the
code of conducts specified by IEEE, Intel has violation in several statement. The
first violation is violating to statement “To hold paramount the safety, health, and
welfare of the public, to strive to comply with ethical design and sustainable
development practices, and to disclose promptly factors that might endanger the
public or the environment”. Because after launching of Pentium chip, Intel knew
that chip is faulty but they wanted proof from each individual customer to verify
that before offering compensation software or replacement. The statement 02 is
“To avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest whenever possible, and to
disclose them to affected parties when they do exist” is also violated because Intel
did not notice the fault in the chip to its customers. The last statement is “to be
honest and realistic in stating claims or estimates based on available data” is
definitely breached because Intel were not honest about the performance of intel
chip at the time of launch and claimed falsely.
Utilitarianism promotes the greatest good for the greatest number. The fact
that there was a flaw in one of its chips and the customers were disappointed and
angry about Intel’s initial response regarding the defect implies that Intel did not
deliver the good to a great number of its customer. Utilitarianism is also known
as no harm principle to which everyone does no harm to others, prevents harm,
and be responsible for damages. Intel’s flawed chip could directly cause harm to
others such as researchers, scientists, bank officers, or those who worked with
numbers and calculations on a daily basis. Scientists conducted experiments,
calculated the data, and reached conclusion. The conclusion would be wrong due
to the chip’s defect, incorrect results would be published, and the scientists’
reputation would be harmed. Banking or stock trading would mis-calculated the
rates, transactions, etc. and caused corporates or individuals to lose money.
Kant Deontology model is an ethical model believes that ethical actions
follow universal moral laws, such as “don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t cheat”. This
ethical theory requires that people follow the rules and do their duty. According
to this model, there are several duties is not adhered in Intel flaw chip crisis.
Firstly, the duty keep inform is violated because Intel keep the flaw chip in secret
until this information is spread on media. In addition, the first replacement policy
is required its customer show that they have the affects by flaw chip. This policy
violated the duty of care.
In conclusion, Intel violated several ethical principles by not respecting the rights
of its customers as well as not taking the responsibility and code of conducts the
way it was supposed to do. However, there was still credit for Intel in this case as
it step-by-step corrected its errors through replacement for anyone who requested,
revealed and disclosed all flaws in the chips. This way, Intel had corrected its
ethical errors and reflected its respect to its customers’ rights regarding Kantian
ethics, its strive for maintaining its reputation, its pursuit to the “greatest good for
the greatest number” according to utilitarianism.