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Old Man
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This has been an ongoing discussion in one of my classes (Nature and Human Values). As many of you will probably become engineers and/or scientists, I thought I would pop this to you.

As engineers (or future engineers) we will be placed in charge of projects that have the potential to alter human society, or even just the company. Is it the engineer's responsibility to understand the ethical nature of their project? Or should they be allowed to puruse the project for pure sake of science and technology?

Some beleive the engineer should be held responsible for the project if the outcome is morally and/or ethically wrong. Rotblat, an engineer who left the Manhattan Project after Trinity went off, wrote an essay proposing a hypocratic oath for engineers, similar to something our medical professionals have. They have this stance becasue engineers are commonly considered to have a level of logic and abilities to comprehend knowledge higher than that of the layman; with this higher knowledge, they are the only ones who can make an appropriate decision.

The deontoligists would rather not hold the engineers and scientists responsible. They would rather have the decisions be made by someone else, allowing the engineer to pursue their project without worrying about the consequences. This was the case with the Manhattan Project. Apart from the scientists and engineers that left the project, everyone apart from the project was caught up in the fervor of pursuing our knowledge of physics. J. Rober Oppenheimer, the project head, felt it was up to the scientists to pursue the knowledge and the engineers to put the bomb together. Then leave it up to the United States government to figure out what to do with it.

Please keep in mind that the Manhattan Project is only an example, and not the only example. While most people would probably feel nuclear weapons are ethically wrong, that's not the point here. Some people beleive dropping Little Boy on Hiroshima and Fat Man on Nagasaki saved lives of both Americans and Japanese. Also keep in mind that the knowledge gained from the Manhattan Project allowed for the development of a Nuclear reactor for power plants and to power machines, such as a submarine. This knowledge is opened the doorway for controlled fusion reactions.
 

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Knowledge is the solution
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IMO the pursuing of knowledge shouldn't be bound to any kind of moral ties (overall considering that nowadays the moral code is way obsolete compared to the technological revolution we have had). As such, scientists should be free to investigate on whatever way they like, within reasonable limits.

However, it's when implementing the idea that I think some kind of guideline could be set (that is, for engineers) since this is when an idea will take actual form and have a real way to impact on society.

Overall, I think that more than trying to bound the ongoing investigation to the current ethical code we have, we should revise our morals, that, as I said, are no longer sufficient for qualifying the new world we are opening through Science.
 

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Retired
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Ethical pursuit of technological developments is a major issue, in my opinion.

The whole field of bioethics is full of new and intriguing ideas, and both scientists and philosophers are part of the ongoing discussion.

Since I don't have much time to write let me sum up my views:

1. The pursuit of scientific knowledge must be bounded by ethical constraints in it's methodology. For instance, killing people in order to study their brains should be strictly forbidden, no matter what the potential gains could be.

2. As long as the methods employed are ethical, no research should face any restriction (in fact, lawyers in the US are using the 1st ammendment to enforce this rule). Even if the predicted product of the research is considered to be harmful, the research should be pursued. Lack of knowledge will always be the worse option (e.g. a rogue nation or a terrorist group ends developing the feared technology, and we'll have no means to counter it, since we lack knowledge).

3. The uses of any particular technology should be subjected to ethical considerations. Military technology always comes first to our minds, but there're other kinds of technology that are worth remembering too. Surveilance technology and biomedical technology all have important ethical ramifications as well.

4. The best approach to the problem is not deontological, but consequentialist. Forget Kant's categorical imperative, embrace enlightened utilitarianism. It's the consequences of an action, to all involved, that matter.

The Transhumanist Declaration covers a few of these points, and is worth reading :)
 

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<font color="#990000"><b>Lurking</b></font>
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IMO, it should be kept simple. There should be no limits to knowledge and it's pursuit as long as it's not harming anyone ( that would include both mental and physical harms), including the designer him/herself or affect the society in one way or another.

PS : but hey, the thing is, people disagree on what's ethical and what's not :rolleyes:

Yours,
-Elly
 

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<B><font color="lightyellow" size = "1">A BIG BAD
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I would think that it depends on the situation. Some might be bound by duty to fulfill their obligation, to the company, to themselves to their profession. I guess it all boils down to your own personal ethical principles. Whether or not you continue, a lot of the decision just goes down to you and your beliefs. Somebody else will ALWAYS step to the plate anyhow, since even perception is just relative. Nothing ever really is ethically wrong or right. Just the perception of what is.
 

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As an engineer it is easy to see all the possibilities, sometimes overlooking all the bad uses. As a critic it is easy to see all the bad uses, and oversee the possibilities.

The sad truth is, we all have to make a living, because we can't live in todays society without money. What we can do, is to decrease our needs and wants, thus saving money. Problem is, if no one buys anything, companies make no money, and they can't pay their employees. Eventually also the technological progress will stagnate.

Maybe that is what need to happen right now, maybe we have been going too fast. What if we all stop, and think of the future, where we need to go from here and how to do it. With all the distraction going on today it's easy to go crazy after some time, causes people to get stressed out, or in worst cases burn out. This causes doctors prescribe "chill pills" and a whole lot of other medicines.

The medical industry makes money off sick people, it might sound awful, but it is the truth. It has gone to the point where companies now actually are trying to keep people on pills (thus making money), instead of actually curing them. This is an example of science gone bad.

But what do we do, we all need to make money somehow. Mankind need a good plan, because our planet is turning into a horrible place. No one sees it, because most of us are too distracted or busy trying to make a living for ourselves.

I'm not giving up though, I believe we can try and make the world a better place. Who knows where we would have been today without the internet, maybe we would have destroyed ourselves already. At least now we can gather and talk and try to figure this out...
 

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Retired
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エッリー said:
IMO, it should be kept simple. There should be no limits to knowledge and it's pursuit as long as it's not harming anyone ( that would include both mental and physical harms), including the designer him/herself or affect the society in one way or another.

PS : but hey, the thing is, people disagree on what's ethical and what's not :rolleyes:
I disagree only on the about part the designer harming him/herself. I think that he/she should have the right to do so.

Anyway, as I've said, there's no need for absolute ethical standards here (deontology), but just a consequentialist approach - it's not that hard to reach a consensus when dealing with consequentialist ethics.
 

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Emulation to the max!
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IMO, I agree with Elly and Boltzman except if the person is mentally insane, they should not be allowed to hurt themselves but if the wana say do bioengineering testing on themselves first and they really know what they are getting into. I think its ok. And again as long as they are not hurting anyone like elly said it should be fine.
 

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The roles of scientists and engineers differ, so I think they need to be addressed individually. Scientists research the underlying principles and theories. They are the ones who make the discoveries. IMO, they should have no limits when it comes to research.

Engineers, on the other hand, are the ones that take the knowledge and discoveries found by scientists and put them into practical use. IMO, engineers do have a moral responsibility when they are creating things because their products are designed for a specific use, unlike the discoveries of the scientists. For example, research into nuclear physics has allowed scientists to better understand the atom, fission, and fusion. However, engineers are the ones that build bombs or nuclear reactors that provide electricity. As such, I think engineers need to consider the affects that their products may have.
 
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