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Engineering as Social Experimentation

Presented by: Dr. Navin kumar

Engineering as a Social Experiment


Experimentation place an important role in the process of designing the product. The normal design process is carried out on trail designs with modifications being made on the basis of feed back information acquired from tests. Each engineering product is to be viewed as an experiment in nature.

Engineering as a Social Experiment (Martin & Schinzinger, 1989)


Engineers are researchers
Clients (humans) are subjects Subjects must be aware of risk exposure from researchers

Researchers face many moral and ethical decisions

Engineering as Social Experimentation


All products of technology present some potential dangers, and thus engineering is an inherently risky activity. In order to underscore this fact and help in exploring its ethical implications, engineering should be viewed as an experimental process.
It is not, an experiment conducted solely in a laboratory under controlled conditions. Rather, it is an experiment on a social scale involving human subjects. Ethics in Engineering, Martin MW and Schinzinger R, McGraw-Hill, 1996

Social Importance of Engineering

Engineering has a direct and vital effect on the quality of life of people.
Accordingly, the services provided by engineers must be dedicated to the protection of the public safety, health and welfare

Why is the Professional Ethics Important for Engineers?


Because the Professional Ethics shall be a part of education for every socially important profession, as one of essential constituents of the meaning of the term professionalism!

Engineering as a Social Experimentation


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Before introducing to the public, every engineering product must under go various experimentation, not only in the laboratory, but also from the view point of the general public, regarding safety and effective usage.

Engineering activities as social experiments:


Engineers create experimental situations through innovation Society participates in these experiments as subjects Uncertainty about outcomes implies risk: Important to identify & quantify risks where possible Decision makers may make biased decisions unless accountable for (uncertain) outcomes

Roles of experimenter & subject


Ethical issues for engineers as experimenters: Duties to experimental subjects Rights of experimental subjects Assessment of costs & benefits of the experiment.
Relationship between experimenter & subject: Legal framework: Legal obligations on experimenter, but these may not address innovative situations Codes of ethics: Primary responsibility lies with the experimenter

Nature of subjects & impacts


Subjects: Individual consumers, groups or society as a whole: Those who can make informed choices, and Those requiring advocates: Disadvantaged, future generations, other species & the environment Impacts: Health, safety & the environment Changes to social structure & social status: Income & wealth distribution Lifestyles & personal empowerment Education, culture

The Engineering Process


Concept

Engineering: Design Produce Install Operate


Intended outcomes: User satisfaction Company profits Unintended outcomes

Corporate context: Time pressure Cost pressure Secrecy


External context: Uncertainty Legal framework Social impacts Environmental impacts

Engineers as Responsible Experimenters


Engineers are far from being sole experimenters, though they are the main technical enablers or facilitators.
Their responsibility is shared with the management, the public and others.

Their expertise places them in a unique position to monitor projects, to identify risks, and to provide clients and public with the information needed to make reasonable decisions.

General features of morally responsible engineers


A conscientious commitment to live by moral values.
Relevant Information Autonomy. Accountability.

Conscientious
People responsibly to the extent that they conscientiously commit themselves to live according to moral values. Moving beyond truism leads immediately to controversy over the precise nature of those values. Engineering as social experimentation restores the vision of Engineers as Guardians of the Public Interest

Relevant Information
Conscientiousness is blind without relevant factual information. Showing moral concern involves a commitment to obtain properly assessed information to meet ones moral obligations.

Moral autonomy
Moral conduct and principles of action are their own.

Accountability

Summary
Engineering is a form of social experimentation: Innovation with social & environmental impacts Uncertainty & risk in outcomes. Stakeholders have a right to informed consent: Information, opportunity, decision making capability Problems in implementation: Lack of a control group & corporate pressures Difficulty in identifying stakeholders Irreducible uncertainty

Thank you