(What did I know about emerging technologies, engineering and ethics before this?)
About a week ago we were presented with the following exercise:
Consider the professional engineering issues involved in the development and deployment of robot soldiers.
The whole exercise was about emerging technologies. The hidden question by my opinion was how are we prepared professionally as engineers to develop and deploy lethal weapons, robot soldiers in this particular case. We had to look at all professional and ethical issues involved in the process.
Personally I try to make my self aware of all the latest technologies by reading latest PC news and magazines but I didn’t really knew much about development and deployment of robots on the battle field’s front line. As a part of Team 2 I did an extensive research on the matter and by the end of my research I had a very good idea where we are in terms of development and usage of so called robot soldiers. The facts were a bit overwhelming at first but reading through the information drew a path that some governments were following in the last 30 years or so. There were hundreds of millions invested in research and development of a single robot that was never used for safety issues. This fact begged the question “ Why not spend it on something that is not meant to kill people?” like a cancer research for example. As we all know new technologies save lives on daily basis but as well as that these same new emerging technologies are used for intimidating and in some cases killing innocent people in our modern world. How can we justify that?
Looking at the code of ethics of an engineer we can clearly see that when some of the new technologies were developed, code of ethics were ignored or over looked or not even considered as a guideline how to develop and deploy new engineering technologies.
(Why is it important for an engineer to consider ethics when involved in emerging technologies?)
Let’s look at the Code of Ethics of an Engineer.
1.9 At all times in their relations with the public, Members shall apply their skill and experience to the common good and the advancement of human welfare with proper regard for the safety, health and welfare of the public.
A Member shall not engage in any activity, which he/she knows or has
reasonable grounds for believing is likely to result in a serious detriment
to any person or persons.
2.3 Members shall strive to ensure that engineering projects for which they are responsible will, as far as is practicable, have minimal adverse effects on the environment, on the health and safety of the public and on social and cultural structures.
These two points very much answer the question why do we need to consider ethics when we work on new technologies that is about to change people’s lives. In many cases these are the only guidelines available for engineers dealing with emerging technologies. As engineers we have to make tough choices and decisions under pressure from employers and deadlines but there’s one thing we have to keep in mind that we are responsible and will be held accountable for any faults or issues concerning human wellbeing. We have to be able to look from technical and ethical side of the problem we are facing.
(What did I learn from this problem about emerging technologies and ethics?)
Over the course of my research for this presentation I discovered facts that really shocked me at first. I found out that people have become very creative when trying to kill other people. The trend in the last 30 years is to develop and deploy highly intelligent and heavily armed machines to try and interfere with military conflicts around the world. Even though there was some success there was a lot of failures too. We all read and hear on the radio how many times civilians are killed because the new technologies like flying drones are failing us. From all the research and conversations we had within the group we all concluded that people don’t have the save technology yet to develop and deploy such technologies as robot soldiers. Perhaps engineers should concentrate on new more effective technologies, which are going to help us become undependable from fossil fuels and minimize our impact on planet earth.
(How will I take this learning forward? What specific things will I do in the future based on what I’ve learned?)
Been involved in research and development of emerging technologies is the main reason I signed up for this course. There’s no better place to start than engineering course in a University. Looking forward in the future I will have to learn how to make future-proof choices when it comes to new technologies that I don’t know the effect off. All possible options and scenarios will be put on the table and considered before any decision is made. I learned that I have to be able to make my self aware of all possible consequences of these new technologies, which means not to rush in implementing something that is going to have adverse effect on the environment or human population.