Electrical Engineering Ethics

Electrical Engineering Ethics

Electrical Engineering is a type of engineering profession that deals with the creation of better electronics. Since our society is heading towards an era of technology, where all members of society will be affected, it is especially important for electrical engineers to follow a code of engineering ethics. For electrical engineers, an important set of guidelines is the Electrical Engineering Code of Ethics, published by IEEE (n.d.), the major professional association for engineers working in the fields of electrical, electronics, computer engineering, and communications.  The Code emphasizes above all else honesty and avoidance of endangerment to the public or the environment.

Problem Solving in Engineering Ethics

Every engineer will find himself in a conflicting position. The steps of Problem Solving in Engineering Ethics are:

  • State the Problem: Clearly define what the ethical engineering problem is.
  • Get the Facts: Obtain all relevant facts to the matter (i.e. the different moral viewpoints) and then analyze them all.
  • Identify and Defend Competing Moral Viewpoints: Analyze the pro and cons of different moral viewpoints and pick the best course of action.
  • Come up with a Course of Action: Pick the best course of actions, and answer all un-answered questions.
  • Qualify the course of Action: Back up the course of action with facts or statistics.

Reasons why Engineers Stray from the Code of Ethics

There are two main reasons why Engineers often stray from their code of ethics. The first reason is because they are overconfident in their work, which in turn causes them to neglect things that might be wrong with it. They may overlook small mistakes or remain stubborn about their beliefs because they think highly of their education level. However, in engineering, these small mistakes might be the very thing that causes a disaster (e.g. the Challenger and O-rings). Another reason why Engineers stray is that they are impatient. They are excited about their work and want to see it in action in the world, so they send it out before it’s ready. Sometimes it is not even their fault, but the fault of their authority figures (i.e. boss or managers). Their authority figures can be impatient and give them a short deadline to work on the project. Impatience does not allow room for iterations of the processes involved in design, testing, and implementing a product or project. Iterations are often needed to increase confidence that the product will work and that, more importantly, it will work safely.

Thus, it is recommended that engineers check their work at least twice and even have others check their work no matter how little time they have left or no matter how excited they are about submitting the project. If they know they have a short deadline, they can either manage their time better to have room for several revisions or ask their boss for an extension. Engineers should also try to be open to other ideas and admit that they could be wrong.

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