The social responsibility of engineers

Posted by Etiene Dalcol on 11/12/2014 05:13
There are mistakes and mistakes. Medical doctors, when they graduate, make an oath. There is an organization in charge of analyzing mistakes because it's something of a tremendous responsibility. Sometimes I have the impression that engineers forget about their social responsibility as engineers. A product may kill people. A mistake in a transportation that causes an accident may kill people. An airbag failure kills people. A programming mistake in a spacecraft costs a gazillion dollars and, if it's manned, kills people.

However, engineers are free to think any bullshit they want, and say these same bullshits in an professional environment without any consequences. Almost as if engineers had no responsibility at all with human life, just with machines and counting bits. This must end.

Comments



MichaelWH on 12/01/2016 14:05
I think you confuse "engineers" with "programmers". It's OK. Lots of programmers do. They see superficial resemblance between what they do and what engineers do and decide that's what they are. Trust me: *real* engineers (not programmers, software "architects", hackers, code ninjas, whatever) understand fully the human costs of their decisions. They even have to take courses in ethics.
Etiene on 14/01/2016 13:32
I'm 1 month from graduating as an Engineer. I am not confusing anything. Engineering a computational system is engineering. And it may kill people. You know, airplanes, aircrafts, etc. depend on those systems. Judging from my peers I would still say that, sadly, you are wrong. Not everyone takes human factors in consideration specially if it does not have the potential to kill anyone, like the HP computer that was accidentally racist or the first speech recognition systems that did not recognise female voices. There are many cases of badly engineered products specially because some teams make the same mistake you did of not considering those as """true""" engineering.