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E
Ethics in Engineering as a Prerequisite for Technological Development of Societies

MEHDI BAHADORI and MAHMOOD YAGHOUBI

Academy of Sciences of Iran


Throughout history, engineers have been able to create a variety of technologies and solve diverse problems related to health and hygiene, treatment and cure of diseases, education, agriculture, housing, transportation, and other topics. This has been accomplished by engineers who avail themselves of the discoveries and scientific achievements of others and who use their own innovations and creativity. The outcome has been the provision of greater comfort and amenities for societies.

Along with these activities, engineers have also been able to create countless deadly weapons to support warmongers who may be able to annihilate or injure a large number of people in a short time.

Such activities of engineers have gone hand-in-hand with the pollution and destruction of the environment and the wasting of natural resources.

Engineers can, by using their creativity and innovation, solve problems and be the harbingers of many facilities and amenities for themselves and others. Having a strong sense of engineering ethics and morality, they can control their own activities, thus safeguarding the interests of societies and ensuring the health of the environment. Imbued with a sense of human values and engineering ethics, one can ensure peace of mind and inner satisfaction, ultimately creating a greater amount of personal happiness, the final goal of all human endeavors.

In this paper, a description of an engineer and the engineering profession is given. Then the role that science plays in this profession, the status of engineers in the development of society, and the importance that industrial countries have attached to engineering ethics are elaborated.



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E Ethics in Engineering as a Prerequisite for Technological Development of Societies MEHDI BAHADORI and MAHMOOD YAGHOUBI Academy of Sciences of Iran T hroughout history, engineers have been able to create a variety of tech- nologies and solve diverse problems related to health and hygiene, treat- ment and cure of diseases, education, agriculture, housing, transportation, and other topics. This has been accomplished by engineers who avail themselves of the discoveries and scientific achievements of others and who use their own innovations and creativity. The outcome has been the provision of greater comfort and amenities for societies. Along with these activities, engineers have also been able to create countless deadly weapons to support warmongers who may be able to annihilate or injure a large number of people in a short time. Such activities of engineers have gone hand-in-hand with the pollution and destruction of the environment and the wasting of natural resources. Engineers can, by using their creativity and innovation, solve problems and be the harbingers of many facilities and amenities for themselves and others. Having a strong sense of engineering ethics and morality, they can control their own activities, thus safeguarding the interests of societies and ensuring the health of the environment. Imbued with a sense of human values and engineering ethics, one can ensure peace of mind and inner satisfaction, ultimately creating a greater amount of personal happiness, the final goal of all human endeavors. In this paper, a description of an engineer and the engineering profession is given. Then the role that science plays in this profession, the status of engineers in the development of society, and the importance that industrial countries have attached to engineering ethics are elaborated. 11

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11 APPENDIX E AN ENGINEERING OATH An engineering oath has been proposed in Iran. Engineers can, at the time of graduation, sign the text of the engineering oath, which is as follows: Profoundly conscious of the importance of the engineering profession in affecting the peace and welfare of human beings throughout the world, in protecting and safeguarding the environment against the hazards of pollution, in supporting my own sustainable joy and happiness, and by committing myself personally to this profession, I as an engineer hereby declare my sincere willing- ness to observe the following principles: 1. In all my engineering activities I shall observe the principles of honesty, precision, regularity, justice, speed in action, the interests of society, and the rights of my colleagues, and I shall be patient in reaching my objectives. 2. In all my engineering activities I shall observe the principles of health, safety, and the future of human beings, and I shall be kind, loving, and com- mitted toward them. 3. In all my engineering activities I shall have self-confidence, curiosity, and perseverance, and I shall use creativity and innovation in solving problems assigned to me. 4. Concerning the duties assigned to me, I shall prove myself committed, con- scientious, and restrained about my employer’s secrets and collaborations. 5. In my engineering activities I shall economize in using water, energy, money, materials, equipment, time, and other national resources, and I shall have a keen sensitivity toward their use and avoid undue wastage. 6. In my engineering activities I shall try to limit harm to the environment as much as possible. 7. I shall endeavor to bring my engineering knowledge up to date and make myself conversant with the latest scientific and technical innovations and achievements, especially in such fields as hazards and safety, to economize in relation to materials, machinery, and systems being used, and to be fully knowledgeable in my designs. 8. In my engineering activities I shall try to create a working environment full of love and kindness. I shall endeavor to selflessly serve my fellow country- men and look upon my colleagues as my dear brothers and sisters and love them all. I shall also try to cultivate human values both within myself as well as within others. 9. In my engineering activities I shall prove myself humble. I shall view the successes and breakthroughs achieved not solely as the result of my own initiatives but also as the result of the sincere cooperation of my colleagues. Hence, I shall always feel grateful toward them. 10. I shall impart my knowledge and experience to others in a spirit of loving kindness and selfless service. 11. In engineering designs I shall observe all standards, and I shall give highest priority to safety rules and the safety of society.

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11 APPENDIX E 12. In my engineering activities I shall preserve a receptive mood and an open mind and sincerely accept the honest criticisms that my colleagues offer to me so as to overcome my shortcomings and mistakes, thus displaying my keen sense of appreciation for group or team work. 13. I shall refrain from any kind of malicious intention that may harm the pres- tige, honor, occupation, and material prosperity of my colleagues. 14. In my engineering activities I shall avoid taking any bribe. Similarly, I shall try to do away with other vices. In accepting rewards for my services, I shall charge payments that shall not exceed the bounds of decency and propriety. ENGINEER AND ENGINEERING Engineers, while making use of their creativity and innovation, can of course help solve problems. However, can they, by observing certain principles and ethical rules, effectively contribute toward overcoming and eradicating the pain and suffering that afflict humanity? Can they rid the environment of the pollution from which it suffers? Can they provide greater welfare for mankind? The question that commands our attention is the purpose that welfare, mate- rial prosperity, and participation serve in a cut-throat competition that is daily assuming more complex and harrowing dimensions. Are we seeking greater physical comforts? Are engineers supposed to enhance material progress for the sole purpose of enjoying more sensual pleasures? Should science, technology, and innovation, with their breathless speed that has enabled them to utilize every- thing, be allowed to mercilessly follow their own present path without paying due regard to wisdom, virtue, morality, and human values? Does this take us nearer to the goal of being happy? In the West, the word engineer in its present connotation has been in fashion since A.D. 1300. It comes from the Latin word ingenium. It has been recorded in various forms such as ingeyno, engyn, engynne, ingenio. For 700 years, dif- ferent characteristics have been enumerated and kept in mind for engineers. Chief among them is that an engineer is a person possessing an innate talent and inborn genius, a human being that creates and is skilled in discovery, design, and innovation. In the past two centuries, and especially in the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first century, the conceptions of engineers’ responsibilities and services, which were valid until then, have undergone changes. With the enlarge- ment of engineering boundaries and the establishment of different specialties, the domain of engineering services and occupations has been greatly broadened. This, in turn, has led to heavier responsibilities. Engineering denotes people’s ability in choosing, designing, innovating, planning, guiding, and manufacturing new or improved products. This ability is reflected in food and other agricultural products; manufacturing, reconstruction,

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120 APPENDIX E and maintenance of machinery, tools, and buildings; and responses to many other needs of societies. Engineers have fundamentally transformed nature. Their activ- ities have been accomplished by using resources such as materials and energy effectively, but at the same time, they have seriously polluted the environment. Bearing the above comments in mind, engineering is a combination of knowledge and creativity. This can be acquired through education, training, research, and experience. It relies on the intelligence and talents of engineers for further innovation. Of course, in the last half-century certain priorities for the knowledge and ability of engineers have been posed and have undergone modifications in accor- dance with changing needs. For instance, today, coping with environmental prob- lems has assumed a far greater significance in the training of engineers. Status of Engineers in National Development Scientific and industrial development has passed through three important stages. These stages began in the years heralding the advent of the Industrial Revolution and continued until the second half of the twentieth century. Computer technology was introduced in the second half of the twentieth century. A third revolution relates to information technology and communications that emerged in the past two decades. Another revolution is unfolding: nanotechnology. Those who have been able to turn knowledge into innovation and innovation into new tools and novel instruments are engineers. Today the process of continual, rapid change forms the most dominant fea- ture in people’s lives and its most salient characteristics. Creativity constitutes the bedrock of transformations and has played an extremely important role, and it is a characteristic of engineers. Many have called this century the Age of Creativity. However, creativity denuded of a philosophy based upon moral virtues, spiritual insight, wisdom, and conscience fails to propel the world toward a noble end and destiny. Ethics Bearing in mind the many different engineering activities, the advanced industrial societies, especially the United States, have resolved to pay more atten- tion to ethics in science in general and engineering in particular. By observing these ethical precepts, engineers may control their own activities more effectively. The degree of attention paid to this matter can be seen in the establishment of centers relating to ethics, computer sites and communication lines for consulta- tion in matters pertaining to engineering ethics, the preparation of ethics docu- ments in companies and institutes and the training of engineers in interpreting the documents, and the publication of articles and books written about ethics in science and engineering. Ethics in engineering has also received attention in

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121 APPENDIX E Iran, as is evidenced by the number of publications (in Farsi) on the topic in the country in recent years. In Iran, the most promising students select engineering subjects. These students, after struggling for 8,000 hours, acquire engineering knowledge and seek employment. By earning lucrative salaries during a period of about 40 years, these engineers are able to provide better and more comfortable lives for them- selves and for their families and dependents. In the process of educating engineers in Iran as well as in other countries, universities instruct the young students on how to achieve a good living and be more comfortable. How should these young specialists spend their lives after leaving the uni- versity? What ethical precepts and principles should they observe while engaged in their engineering activities so that they may enjoy life and be happier? For an efficient execution of our engineering responsibilities, we stand in need of certain principles that we call engineering ethics. From the ethical point of view, engineers must possess the following: techni- cal ethics that concern technical and scientific decisions; professional ethics that relate to dealings with other engineers, managers, workers, and support staff; and social morality that pertains to patriotic and humanitarian commitments. How and where can one acquire these moral virtues? Is it essential that an engineer who has mastered all aspects of his studies and profession observe engineering ethics? Such questions constitute the very essence of our discussion in this paper. We believe that the observance of ethical rules by engineers in all of their engineering activities is essential. Such observance makes for greater material prosperity for them in the long run. Happiness, peace of mind, and tranquility throughout life are thereby greatly enhanced. We can compare the subject matter of ethics in the engineering profession to driving and the traffic signs at intersections. In relation to driving, the meaning of each and every green, yellow, and red light must be determined beforehand. The driver must know how to respond when confronted with them. Meanwhile, certain guidelines must also exist which may inform the driver of the punishments and the rate of fines imposed in case he disobeys the rules. Nevertheless, in spite of the existence of these punishments, the driver is morally bound to observe them so as not to encroach upon the rights of others and harm them or himself. The same case holds for engineering ethics. An engineer should be instructed in ethics concerning the areas in which he can be active. He must be made aware of the situations or fields in which he must refrain from acting and be conscious of the consequences that lie in store for him in case he indulges in forbidden activi- ties. However, more important is the imperative that an engineer should possess a noble sense of engineering ethics and human values. He should exercise restraint over his thoughts and actions. Rules pertaining to legal and illegal activities must be imparted to students in universities. The penalties that will ensue from illegal activities must be

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122 APPENDIX E determined through the country’s laws. Most important, human values must be fostered in students of engineering and the country’s engineers. It is the priceless possession of these sublime values that can ensure not only material welfare and prosperity but, more important, can contribute to greater inner satisfaction and sustainable happiness. SCIENCE, INNOVATION, DEVELOPMENT, AND THE ENGINEERING PROFESSION The twenty-first century is an era of rapid changes and transformations. Advanced countries, through scientific discoveries and novel innovations, con- tinue along their path of development unhampered. As a society becomes more advanced economically, culturally, and socially, it is consequently more capable of providing social security and mental tranquility for its citizens. The lack of such developments causes a host of social problems, such as increases in the rates of poverty and crime. Attaining peace of mind, happiness, and prosperity is a major goal in any society. The growth and development of science and technology is a means toward the attainment of this objective. Reaching this goal requires a strong national determination and a true longing on the part of society. It also requires a sense of self-confidence and hard work by the members of society who can attain this goal. The development of science and technology and human and moral char- acteristics are directly related. Unfortunately, the development of science and technology, with all the advantages and benefits that it has brought for man, has had a negative effect on moral and human values in society. The age of technol- ogy has caused a type of mechanization of human life and human behavior. It has caused people to drift far away from virtues and the accepted traditional values of society. The main reason for this is the industrial development of the country without adequate attention to the values dominating that society. Engineers are one of the most important groups that directly contribute to the advancement of science and technology in a country. This group must pos- sess certain characteristics in order to play its pivotal role as a connecting link or bridge between society and the industrial sector. The general belief is that an engineer must possess broad information skills that transcend his technical and technological skills. A good engineer, over and above being skilled in analyzing theories and their practical applications, must possess an analytical mind in criti- cal situations. He must possess the ability to cope with prevailing work condi- tions, managerial skills, and the capacity to learn and to teach in the long run. He must also possess virtuous moral qualities. More attention should to be paid during the training of engineers to the longevity of manufactured products and the engineers’ responsibility toward the final performance of the product. Increased awareness concerning sustainable

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12 APPENDIX E development and environmental issues, increased health and safety, and increased skills in group or team work must also be cultivated. Today, the manufacturing of products and innovative services with better technology for competition at regional and world markets has become a neces- sity. In addition to drawing from the experiences of others to compete in various markets (especially in regional and world markets), creativity is an individual ability that can lead to a discovery or an innovative idea. Innovation is a complex and complicated process that renders a discovery or an idea into a marketable product or service. It is necessary to produce unique products and offer unparal- leled services. This requires innovation and creativity. A COURSE ON ETHICS FOR STUDENTS OF ENGINEERING Along with teaching currently existing courses such as basic and engi- neering sciences in engineering colleges, it is important to instruct students in engineering ethics, too. Without such instruction, all that we succeed in accomplishing is to jam the minds of extremely intelligent young people with knowledge that is quickly forgotten. If, together with teaching engineering subjects, we also instruct students in engineering ethics, we will help to build a well-integrated character. Most important in teaching engineering ethics and fostering the growth of human values is for the teachers themselves to possess such values. They should serve as models for the students who spend the best time of their lives in universities. The first courses concerning engineering ethics were conducted in the United States in the 1960s. Initially, engineering ethics took the form of case studies of actions and decisions taken, either individually or collectively in relation to the engineering profession. It is only appropriate that engineering departments in Iran make the neces- sary decision to offer such courses. This has to be led by a professor experienced in engineering. He should possess a blameless character and lofty human values. He should have close connections with industry on the one hand and technical innovation on a world scale on the other. The main subjects might include the following: • history of engineering in the world, • history of scientific and industrial revolutions in the world, • working relations and industrial laws, • economic and production relations, • standards of design and productivity, • professional ethics, • human values and ethical engineering, • environmental protection and sustainable development,

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12 APPENDIX E • globalization and the status of engineers in growth cycles, and • relation of industry and university. Each student should present a seminar on any of the topics listed above. Students trained not only in engineering subjects but also in ethics can lead the way to developing a profession that responds to societal interests in a rapidly changing world.