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Modern engineering and technology have allowed us to connect with each other and even to reach the moon. But technology has also polluted vast areas of the planet and empowered surveillance and authoritarian governments with dangerous tools. There are numerous cases where engineers and other stakeholders routinely ask what they are capable of inventing, and what they actually should invent. Nuclear weapons and biotechnology are two examples. But when analyzing the transformations arising from less controversial modern socio-technological tools – like the Internet, smartphones, and connected devices, which augment and define our work and social practices – two very distinct areas of responsibility become apparent. On the one hand, a question arises around the values and practices of the engineers who create the technologies. What values should guide their endeavors and how can society promote good conduct? On the other hand, there are questions regarding the effects of people using these technologies. While engineering and design choices can either promote or hinder commendable social behavior and appropriate use, this chapter will focus on the first question.
As technology becomes more powerful, intelligent, and autonomous, its usage also creates unintended consequences and ethical challenges for a vast array of stakeholders. The ethical implications of technology on society, for example, range from job losses (such as potential loss of truck driver jobs due to automation) to lying and deception about a product that may occur within a technology firm or on user-generated content platforms. The challenges around ethical technology design are so multifaceted that there is an essential need for each stakeholder to accept responsibility. Even policymakers who are charged with providing the appropriate regulatory framework and legislation about technologies have an obligation to learn about the pros and cons of proposed options.
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