Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Need of ethical values in professional engineers

Every human being always seeks to minimize the level of disaster and distress in their own life which need some decision to be made and to be followed. The set of guidelines based on the values that are used to help in making decision for an individual or an organization is termed as Ethics in its respect. It seems, in that regard, difficult in defining 'Ethics' is similar to 'Quality'. Ethics is like a pretty girl. It is really hard to describe what would comprise a pretty girl but once you will see it, you will find it. If we see in terms of electricity. Electricity is completely governed by natural laws, yet we think it is rational to put up lightening conductors. An ethics is just like a lightening conductor for human passion that enables him to work in a way that produces a minimum of disaster. Ethics essence of an ethics lies in the fact to favor for development. Every thing, we see in this world is relative. Even the time is relative. So why not 'Ethics'? This relativity of ethics causes confrontation and leads to disaster. So there should be a universal law (which is may vary from one organization to other organization, from one individual to other. But the practically impossible) which unifies the interest of every people in a great measure.
Different philosophies are given in regard to like egoism, natural law, utilitarianism and ethics of respect (golden rule).
EGOISM?advocates for the solution which promotes least harm his/her self-interest.
NATURAL LAW- advocates for four basic values: life, procreation, knowledge, and sociability.
UTILITARIANISM- advocates a person to put overall human welfare as a priority above course of action.
ETHICS OF RESPECT- this theory follows the general principal of doing unto others as you have done unto yourself.
Every philosophy has pros and cons. My personal thought is in the favor of ethics of respect. It is the golden rule of progressing, enhancing their capabilities without interfering others. Ethics for professional engineers is in particular, the study of moral issues and decision confronting individuals and organization involved in engineering and also the study of moral conduct. The application of engineering ethics provides a consensus on the morality of engineering decision and defines guidelines for moral conduct by engineering. At present, when everywhere there is atmosphere of competition it is indispensable to have some negotiation with one's consciousness at a minimum cost which can help them in their advancement as well as for the welfare of common people. When an engineer get a place in a company he becomes the part and parcel of the unit and its rate will decide the degree of the progress of company and organization. Any company is just like a train in which every compartment is attached with other. In a same way there should be compromise between the employees and have a better understanding with their boss and fellow workers. A specific behavior builds one's impression and this impression is the indistinguishable element at a particular position. It is the main constituent of discipline, the vital requirement for growth. How to behave with boss, how to behave with fellow-workers have a different manner which will be effectively pronounced in the case of one's own ethnicity.
Successful organization is characterized by a robust culture that pervades the organization and sometimes gets branded as the IBM way or the GE culture. Now days every company (like infosys and tisco) has different culture and tradition. Even in employee's personal facts (martial states, dressing) is being decided by companies. Some companies allowed the eminent engineers to know about the records, upcoming projects and their future plans and negotiation where as in some companies it is limited only the manager. It is evidently clear that ethical values vary from one organization to other organization. Therefore it is a Herculean task to preserve own ethical values along with ethical values of companies. So as to maintain the aura of professionalism throughout the engineering discipline. Codes of ethics also may encourage engineers to behave in a manner that benefits both the profession and society. Above all else, engineering professionals are in service to society, and so it is implicit in both the ethical codes and engineering ethics, that the public good should be placed above the personal interest of engineers. Samuel Florman's _The Civilized Engineer_ dedicates three chapters to the subject of engineering ethics. His most fundamental ideas on the subject appear to be as follows:

? There won't be a unified code of engineering ethics, because the engineers won't agree on it.
? The engineers themselves will not be given the chance to regulate their own behavior, because laws do a better job.
? Diligence and competence are more crucial to the engineer than what we think of as morality.
Why will there be no unified code of ethics? Because we can't agree on even first principles:
WHAT is the public interest?
HOW is it to be served?
WHO is to regulate our code?
An engineer must decide on public safety vs. client confidentiality is ideal for examining the complexity of what constitute engineering ethics. The case is as follows:"
Tenants in an apartment building appeal to the owners of the building in order to force them to repair a number of problems which seems annoying but not dangerous, the owners' attorney hires a structural engineer, to inspect the building and testify on behalf of the owner. The engineer discovers serious structural problems in the building, which are an immediate threat to the tenants' safety. These problems, however, are not mentioned in the tenants' suit. In response, the engineer reports this information to the attorney, who tells him to keep this information confidential because it could affect the lawsuit"
The question then arises, should the Engineer conceal his knowledge of the safety-related defects because he was legally bound to maintain confidentiality, or should the safety of the public be placed above all else. If this scenario is analyzed in accordance with natural law theory, which is based on the utility of actions, then the ethical thing for the engineer to do is to report on the hazard. However, if an egoist approach is taken then the engineer should do what he believes is in his best interest.
According to the Engineering Code of Ethics, an engineer's foremost responsibility lies in protecting the safety and welfare of the public. In cases where the unethical conduct of the colleague threatens the well being of the public, an engineer is morally justified in reporting unethical conduct. Despite personal sentiments regarding betrayal and breach of confidentially, the engineering profession demands that the public good be placed above all else.
Now question may arise what should an engineer do when cost is put above safety.
First and foremost, it must be decided what level of safety would be compromised and if the cost warrants that compromise. If decisions regarding the safety cannot be adequately deduce from evidence and reasoning rather than from explicit statements. , and if the engineer believes that the added cost of the project is not added with an increase in public safety, then the cost should be a consideration, since an engineer must also do what is in the best interest of his client. Consequently, if the level of safety is determined, then an engineer is morally bound to put public safety above cost. Engineering professionals are not obligated, as in the medical profession, to find suitable replacements for their clients before they sign of on a project due to ethical disagreements. For example;
If an engineer has taken a project to construct a dam over a river, then he should have to consider both public interest and cost. If making a dam is coupled with more distressful condition for agriculture than the advantages related with dam then constructing dam is in oppose to ethical values of engineer.
Our life seeks always to be happy. At present when everyone is so indulged with competition and success, he has become dumb to his consciousness. For maintaining success and ones' principal ethics are required .either it is company or a person a discipline, a constraint is required to gain optimum value of performance. our principal should be flexible and should go along the ethical values of company. But I personally feel that the priority of public interest should be above all when an engineer should have to decide a controversy circumstances. As Albert Einstein has said
"As a circle of light increases so does the circumference of darkness around it.

So there is always badness associated with goodness. Some times ethics of one company or individual may hurt other feelings or may interfere in other's matter. So individual philosophy will decide what he has to do or not to do. In a nutshell development of a nation is in the hands of engineers. An engineer embraced with ethical values is epitome of successful company, successful nation.
"The conscientious, effective engineer is a virtuous engineer."

1 comment:

eksparsh said...

Ethics is important in all aspects of our lives. It is weird how much we tend to ignore it in today's money-driven world! Good Post Amit!