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The author and publisher shall not be liable in any event for incidental or consequential damages in connection with, or arising out of, the furnishing, performance, or use of these programs. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN alk. Engineering ethics.
F '. Professional Ethics 4 1. This page intentionally left blank 7. About This Book Engineering Ethics is an introductory textbook that explores many of the ethical issues that a practicing engineer might encounter in the course of his or her profes- sional engineering practice. The book contains a discussion of ethical theories, develops several ethical problem-solving methods, and contains case studies based on real events that illustrate the problems faced by engineers.
The case studies also show the effects that engineering decisions have on society. This page intentionally left blank 9. This was not the first time that a Pinto had caught on fire as a result of a rear-end collision. In the seven years following the introduction of the Pinto, there had been some 50 lawsuits related to rear-end collisions.
However, this time Ford was charged in a criminal court for the deaths of the passengers. This case was a significant departure from the norm and had important implica- tions for the Ford engineers and managers. A criminal proceeding, on the other hand, would indicate that Ford was grossly negligent in the deaths of the passengers and could result in jail terms for the Ford engineers or managers who worked on the Pinto.
The case against Ford hinged on charges that it was known that the gas-tank design was flawed and was not in line with accepted engineering standards, even though it did meet applicable federal safety standards at the time. During the trial, it was determined that Ford engineers were aware of the dangers of this design, but management, concerned with getting the Pinto to market rapidly at a price competi- tive with subcompact cars already introduced or planned by other manufacturers, had constrained the engineers to use this design.
They had to attempt to balance their duty to the public against their duty to their employer. Ultimately, the attempt by Ford to save a few dollars in manufacturing costs led to the expenditure of millions of dollars in defending lawsuits and payments to vic- tims. Of course, there were also uncountable costs in lost sales due to bad public- ity and a public perception that Ford did not engineer its products to be safe.
Ethical cases can go far beyond issues of pub- lic safety and may involve bribery, fraud, environmental protection, fairness, hon- esty in research and testing, and conflicts of interest. During their undergraduate education, engineers receive training in basic and engineering sciences, problem- solving methodology, and engineering design, but generally receive little training in business practices, safety, and ethics.
This problem has been partially corrected, as many engineering education programs now have courses in what is called engineering ethics. Indeed, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology ABET , the body responsi- ble for accrediting undergraduate engineering programs in the United States, has mandated that ethics topics be incorporated into undergraduate engineering cur- ricula.
The purpose of this book is to provide a text and a resource for the study of engineering ethics and to help future engineers be prepared for confronting and resolving ethical dilemmas, such as the design of an unsafe product like the Pinto, that they might encounter during their professional careers. A good place to start a discussion of ethics in engineering is with definitions of ethics and engineering ethics.
Ethics is the study of the characteristics of morals. Ethics also deals with the moral choices that are made by each person in his or her relationship with other persons. As engineers, we are concerned with ethics because these definitions apply to all of the choices an individual makes in life, including those made while practicing engineering.
For our purposes, the definition of ethics can be narrowed a little. Engineering ethics is the rules and standards governing the conduct of engineers in their role as professionals.
Engineering ethics encompasses the more general definition of eth- ics, but applies it more specifically to situations involving engineers in their profes- sional lives. Thus, engineering ethics is a body of philosophy indicating the ways that engineers should conduct themselves in their professional capacity. Why is it important for engineering students to study engineering ethics? Several notorious cases that have received a great deal of media attention in the past few years have led engineers to gain an increased sense of their professional responsibili- ties.
These cases have led to an awareness of the importance of ethics within the engi- neering profession as engineers realize how their technical work has far-reaching impacts on society. The work of engineers can affect public health and safety and can influence business practices and even politics. One result of this increase in awareness is that nearly every major corporation now has an ethics office that has the responsibility to ensure that employees have Ethics offices also try to foster an ethical culture that will help to head off ethical problems in a corporation before they start.
The goal of this book and courses in engineering ethics is to sensitize you to important ethical issues before you have to confront them. You will study important cases from the past so that you will know what situations other engineers have faced and will know what to do when similar situations arise in your professional career. Finally, you will learn techniques for analyzing and resolving ethical problems when they arise. The goal of this book, then, is to foster the moral autonomy of future engineers.
The question asked at the beginning of this section can also be asked in a slightly different way. Why should a future engineer bother studying ethics at all? The answer to this question lies in the nature of the ethical problems that are often encoun- tered by an engineer. In most situations, the correct response to an ethical problem is very obvious. For example, it is clear that to knowingly equip the Pinto with wheel lugs made from substandard, weak steel that is susceptible to breaking is unethical and wrong.
This action could lead to the loss of a wheel while driving and could cause numerous accidents and put many lives at risk. Of course, such a design deci- sion would also be a commercial disaster for Ford.
Engineering Ethics, 4th Edition