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Technological Designs: What Morally Responsible Engineers should Learn from their Professional Ethics? Dr. SATYA SUNDAR SETHY Dept. of Humanities & Social.

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Presentation on theme: "Technological Designs: What Morally Responsible Engineers should Learn from their Professional Ethics? Dr. SATYA SUNDAR SETHY Dept. of Humanities & Social."— Presentation transcript:

1 Technological Designs: What Morally Responsible Engineers should Learn from their Professional Ethics? Dr. SATYA SUNDAR SETHY Dept. of Humanities & Social Sciences Indian Institute of Technology Madras Chennai-600 036, India

2 Emotion and Technological Design  What are the possible risks can be avoided if engineers would incorporate ‘emotional reflection’ in their work?  What kind of ‘emotion’ we are talking about?  How does emotion play a vital role for designing a product?  Is it necessary for engineers to cultivate moral emotions and sensitivity in order to engage in morally responsible engineering?

3 Engineers & Engineering  Emotional engineers: Oxymoron  No technology is value neutral.  Technology has either bad or good consequences for the people.  Value-sensitive-design (value of life, value of environment..)  Whatever product Engineers made that determines their behavior  How are our beliefs incorporated in a design?  Public also influenced with these behaviors to choose a technology (product) for their use.  Obligation for engineers- include moral values- in their design  Engineers should use their emotions in order to develop morally responsible technologies.

4 CONTINUE..  If moral decision-making would be left to managers or policy makers, then it would take place after a product is already designed/developed.  Without depending on the moral reflections of moral experts, engineers should cultivate their own moral expertise.  Since they have technical expertise, they can reduce the risks of a technological product by developing a different design.  Technological risks and benefits are not merely a technical matter but also involve ethical aspects.  This requires a capacity to be aware of moral features.

5 Risks, Values, and Emotions  Engineers: risk is a product of probabilities and unwanted consequences.  They use cost-benefit analysis to weight the possible advantages vs. disadvantages  Cost-benefit analysis is not suffice to determine whether a risk is to be accepted or not?  Whether a risk is taken voluntarily?  Distribution of risks and benefits for people  Available alternatives to a technology  Risk should be judged (quantitative notion + ethical consideration)  Acceptable= High probability of success +small effect  Unacceptable= Small probability of success + large effect

6 CONTINUE..  In the process, engineers have a richer understanding of risk than experts.  Purely rational reflection (lack of imagining power)  Engineers need moral emotions in order to have well grounded insights into whether a technological risk is morally acceptable or not?  Why do we need to emphasize the emotional capacities of engineers and how could this be achieved by them?  How can Engineers implement emotional reflection in the engineering design process?  Emotions are helpful in assessing moral values involved in technologies.  It will enable engineers to play an important role in reflecting on morally responsible technological design.

7 Will Emotion Affect the Rational Decision?  Emotions about risks can be based on reasonable concerns.  Reasonable concerns (justice, fairness, autonomy, etc.)  These concerns should be taken seriously by engineers when they reflect on the risky aspects of the technological design.  Different people- various emotions- how to take a decision?  Disagreement is nearly always a part of collective decision making.  Diverging views and emotions enable us to take a more balanced judgment.

8 CONTINUE.  Emotion can also be mistaken/misread by us as well as others.  We should critically assess our emotions and also take others emotions into our account while designing a technology.  Emotion can be a source of ethical reflection (Lacewing, 2005)  An emotion such as ‘sympathy’ can correct egoistic emotion (Roeser, 2010).  Emotion= Shame, resentment, guilt, blame, etc. (backward-looking responsibility)- failed responsibility, ascribing negativity  Emotion= Sympathy, Empathy, compassion, etc. (forward-looking responsibility)

9 CONTINUE.  Can we codify the rules and/or responsibilities for the professionals????  They should develop the ‘context-sensitive’ insights which requires moral emotions to nurture, evolve, and develop.  Engineers should be virtue-responsible persons.  A virtuous person is one who developed his/her character in such a way that (s)he steers a wise middle ground between extreme responses.  Moral emotions make engineers sensitive towards moral issues arising from the technological designs.  Thus, engineers should use their imaginative capacities which they can draw from moral emotions to design humane technologies.

10 Risks and Responsibility  Engineering design fixes the responsibility either to an individual or to a group of people.  Risks and responsibility has no univocal definition.  Risk assessment (RA) vs. Risk management  Identification and quantification of risks (RA)  Acceptability of risks and its societal management. Thus it involves the question of ‘values’.  Types of responsibility --- Role responsibility (Heart, 2008) --- Causal responsibility (Heart, 2008) ---Capacity responsibility (Heart, 2008) --- Liability responsibility (Heart, 2008)

11 CONTINUE.. --- Blame responsibility ( Wolff, 2006) --- Virtue responsibility (Ladd, 1991)  Role responsibility It is linked to a specific position to which particular duties are attached. (A pilot is responsible for the flight of his aircraft)  Causal responsibility It refers to the cause, understood in a quasi-mechanical sense of an event. (The storm is responsible for the plane crash)  Capacity responsibility It refers to the capacity of an agent to fulfill his/her responsibilities. Being responsible for his/her own actions implies having the capacity of understanding, reasoning, and controlling the conduct. (Intoxicated driver)

12 CONTINUE..  Liability responsibility It is the legal facet of responsibility  Blame responsibility Blame occurs when there is violation of moral norm and when someone’s behaviour is morally culpable. (terrorism, naxalism, abducting someone, etc.)  Virtue responsibility It is a form of responsibility which refers to moral deficiency and not just to fault. The absence of care and concern for the welfare of others. It ascribes “how things are and how things should be or should have been”– Bhopal tragedy (Even if no one was really at fault, safety was not a priority of the management, )

13 Deep-water Horizon Disaster  On April 20, 2010 – Deepwater horizon disaster (Near the Mexico city)  Deepwater horizon exploded due to ‘wellhead- blowout’.  11 platform workers lost their lives  Causing an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico  Report said that this disaster had have avoided, if engineers would have fixed a ‘blowout preventer’ in the desired place, proper cemented the well, examined the regulatory’s oversight.  Impact of the disaster: wildlife habitant, economic lost, environment pollution, sea-life death, people affected those lived in the Mississippi riverbed.

14 CONTINUE..  August, 2010, The BP company announced that they put a CAP on the well, so no further danger to life.  Who is responsible for this tragic incident?  Duty + Responsibility + Accountability  The BP company  Tony Hayward (of BP)  President - Mr. Barack Obama  The US govt. (the regulatory body)  Several other companies  Moral responsibility ascribes to agent, control condition, knowledge condition (technological actions)

15 CONTINUE..  Control condition: One should not be forced to do something  Knowledge condition: One must not ignorant of what (s)he is doing  Failure to control is an instance of wrong doing if one has the ability and capability to control that.  Although no one has intention to make the disaster, but nevertheless one can’t escape form his/her responsibility which contribute disaster to occur.

16 SUBMISSION  Engineers are advised to incorporate their moral decisions/judgments while designing the technology.  They can’t evade their moral responsibilities.  Thus, they should understand their ‘responsibility’ and be prepared to be accountable for their actions in their life endeavor.

17 Suggested Readings  Emotional Engineers: Toward Morally Responsible Design – Sabine Roeser  Moral Responsibility, Technology, and Experiences of the Tragic: From Kierkegaard to Offshore– Mark Coeckelbergh  Risk and Responsibility: A Complex and Evolving Relationship--- Celine Kermisch (Journal: Science and Engineering Ethics)


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