Moral Engineering

There are a few things that need to be said again and again, lest they are forgotten. Our old sacred texts have followed this practice. Ethics is one such thing. Ethics is about moral principles. In simple language, ethics is about what engineers are supposed to do and what they are doing. As Cicero said eons ago, “public safety must be pre-eminent in everything engineers do.”

The biggest challenge the engineering profession faces today is its integration with human needs. We are not limited by technology but we are worried about risks to the environment, health, and safety. We can’t live in an isolated world. In the world we live there is competition. Thus we want appropriate methods to make cooperation natural. Engineers want to see the virtues of ‘cooperative competition’, in spite of the fact that they work under various constraints: nature, cost, safety, environment, ergonomics, reliability, manufacturability and maintainability, among others. We want real-world engineers, the engineers who can handle unknown and unexpected problems. We want engineers who can work in a culturally diverse space. Good engineering design should not be deprived of the benefits of a broad spectrum of life experiences, as adequate familiarisation with societal demands is essential for practical technological literacy. An emerging element of this evolving engineering context is “open innovation”. Open innovation organisations don’t confine themselves to inner means for solving problems. They go out, wherever they have to, to find solutions. In the fast changing scenario we need different kinds of engineering educators, some call them ‘practicing engineers’. We have to ask ourselves – Do we take pride in designing a thing and manufacturing it, as we take pride in packaging and selling it?