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The introduction of new technology to society often brings great benefits but it can also create new risks. Serious efforts have been made to assess and manage these risks. Perhaps the most notable example is the probabilistic risk assessment. However, these and other risk analysis methods have limitations. By reviewing how the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident could fall through the cracks of risks assessments, some of these limitations are discussed. Naturally, this is not intended to dismiss risk assessment but rather to make engineers more aware of what assessments can and in particular cannot do. Moreover, risk assessment methods have been criticized for ignoring the social and ethical aspects of risk. The ethical issues associated with risk analysis are discussed, distinguishing between individual-based approaches to ethics of risks (e.g., informed consent) and collective and consequence-based approaches. The chapter further reviews several methods for dealing with uncertainties in engineering design and applications, including redundancies, barriers, and safety factors as well as the Precautionary Principle and Safe-by-Design.
This chapter reviews Cost–Benefit Analysis (CBA) as one of the most commonly applied methods for assessing engineering projects, particularly when a choice is to be made between alternatives. It is often wrongly assumed that a CBA is an objective way of assessing costs and benefits and that the result unequivocally presents the best outcome. CBA is rooted in utilitarian thinking in ethics which argues that moral rightness depends on whether positive consequences are being maximized. CBA – together with its underlying ethical theory – has been abundantly criticized in the philosophy literature. This chapter is not just another voice in this "philosophical choir": not because the critique is not valid, but because it does not necessarily dismiss the CBA altogether. The chapter aims to show what a CBA can and cannot do and how it can be made more suitable for assessing the risks, costs, and benefits of engineering projects. It provides several ways of circumventing some of the ethical objections to a CBA by amending, adjusting, or supplementing it – and when none of these can help – rejecting the CBA as a method and substituting a multi-criteria analysis.
Engineering is becoming increasingly globalized. We need to cultivate thinking about engineering in the broad international context. The current literature predominantly takes the Western perspective as its point of departure for discussions of engineering ethics in the international context. It focuses on technology transfer from Western to non-Western countries and the dilemmas of a conflicted Western engineer when working in non-Western countries. This chapter reviews two strategies for broadening this focus in the literature: globalizing and diversifying engineering ethics. Globalization focuses on establishing the commonalities between different countries. While it sounds intuitively compelling, it can be at the expense of newcomers in the engineering fields. Diversification focuses on acknowledging the cultural differences between countries, but it can easily be misinterpreted as ethical relativism. Diversification is most helpful if cross-cultural reflection can be achieved. If followed properly, both strategies can lead to more inclusive thinking in engineering ethics.
This chapter distinguishes between two approaches to ethics and engineering, namely "ethics and the engineer" and "ethics and the practice of engineering." The former relates to issues such as the responsibility of an individual engineer in general and within organizations, as spelled out in codes of conduct (such as professional engineering codes, company codes, and other important international codes). The ethics-up-front approach is presented in relation to the latter approach, as proactive thinking about ethics in the practice of engineering. Engineers employ and engage in a variety of activities including the assessment and evaluation of risks, costs, and benefits, and the design and development of artifacts and systems, for instance energy systems. At every turn in those activities, values are expressed either explicitly or implicitly, and choices have ethical ramifications, whether recognized or not. The chapter helps engineers to better identify the ethical problems in hand so as to provide tools and frameworks to proactively address these problems.
This chapter shows how different values including security, privacy, and safety have been at stake in the design of whole-body scanners at airports. Value-sensitive design (VSD) and Design for Values are discussed as two approaches to proactively identifying and including values in engineering design. When designing for values, one may run into conflicting values that cannot be accommodated at the same time. Different strategies for dealing with value conflicts are discussed, including designing out the conflict and balancing the conflicting values in a sensible and acceptable way. This chapter does not pretend to offer the holy grail of design for ethics. Indeed, complex and ethically intricate situations will emerge in an actual design process. Instead, it offers a way to be more sensitive to these conflicts when they occur in design and to be equipped to deal with them as far as possible. The chapter further discusses responsible research and innovation in proactive thinking about technological innovation. In so doing, it extends the notion of design beyond merely technical artifacts and focuses on the process of innovation.
We are moving at a fast pace towards the era of machines that are in charge of moral decisions, as in the case of self-driving cars. By reviewing the accident with the Uber self-driving car in Arizona in 2018, this chapter discusses the complexities of assigning responsibilities when such an accident occurs as a result of a joint decision between human and machine, begging the question: Can we ascribe any form of responsibility to the car, or does the responsibility lie solely with the car designer or manufacturer? There is a tendency among scientists and engineers to emphasize the imperfection of human beings and argue that computers could be the "moral saints" we humans can never be because they are not prone to human emotions with their explicit and implicit biases. By reviewing examples from loan approval practices, the chapter shows why this is incorrect. The chapter reviews the ethics of artificial intelligence (AI), specifically focusing on the problems of agency and bias. It further discusses meaningful human control in autonomous technologies as a powerful way of looking at human–machine interactions from the perspective of active responsibilities.
This chapter provocatively argues that there is no such thing as sustainable energy. The black and white dichotomy of unsustainable versus sustainable leaves out important "colors" that reflect the complexity of the energy discussion. By reviewing the rapid developments in biofuel – which is supposedly sustainable – and the ensuing food crisis in the beginning of the century, it shows that sustainability is about much more than renewability. Sustainability is presented as a moral framework that comprises several underlying values, including safety, security, environmental benevolence, resource durability, and economic affordability. These values are presented in relation to different production methods for nuclear energy, creating an ethically nuanced picture of this energy technology. The chapter further addresses energy ethics. While sustainability and energy ethics have a great deal in common, energy ethics can provide us with a more fine-grained analysis of the broader ethical issues associated with energy, including questions of human rights, risk acceptability, and justice.
The world population is growing, yet we continue to pursue higher levels of well-being, and as a result, increasing energy demands and the destructive effects of climate change are just two of many major threats that we face. Engineers play an indispensable role in addressing these challenges, and whether they recognize it or not, in doing so they will inevitably encounter a whole range of ethical choices and dilemmas. This book examines and explains the ethical issues in engineering, showing how they affect assessment, design, sustainability, and globalization, and explores many recent examples including the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, Dieselgate, 'naked scanners' at airports, and biofuel production. Detailed but accessible, the book will enable advanced engineering students and professional engineers to better identify and address the ethical problems in their practice.
In this chapter, we discuss the evolution of the field of ‘ethics of nuclear energy’, regarding its past, present and future. We will first review the history of this field in the previous four decades, focusing on new and emerging challenges of nuclear energy production and waste disposal, in light of several important developments. Four of the most pressing ethical challenges will be further reviewed in the chapter. First, what is a morally ‘acceptable’ nuclear energy production method, if we consider the existing and possible new technologies? Second, provided a new tendency to consider nuclear waste disposal with several countries, what would be the new ethical and governance challenges of these multinational collaborations? Third, how should we deal with the (safety) challenges of the new geographic distribution of nuclear energy, tilting towards emerging economies with less experience with nuclear technology? Fourth, nuclear energy projects engender highly emotional controversies. Neither ignoring the emotions of the public nor taking them as a reason to prohibit or restrict a technology – we call them technocratic populist pitfalls respectively – seem to be able to guide responsible policy making.