To the IET, Engineering & Ethics

This is a copy of a letter I wrote to the IET magazine "Engineering and Technology (E&T) in response to one of their articles. It was published in their August 2016 Edition.

To the Editor

I read with delight your recent issue of E&T which discusses the various modern parallels with Shelly's work which abound in modern Science and Engineering. This is undoubtedly something not discussed enough in our profession. I was sad however to notice the omission of how we prepare new engineers to face the various ethical conundrums their work throws up. Having been through four years of University, I am leaving it worried about our ability as engineers and individuals to face up to the kinds of issues that the story of Victor Frankenstein forces us to consider.

We do not teach engineers to consider the societal & moral implications of their work and design choices. I believe that if engineers are going to meaningfully contribute to the public discourse on the development of new technologies, we need better education on the applied ethical aspects of engineering. Many of your examples were technologies which are still years and decades from coming into existence, but in many cases we are already building tools and systems which have effects we do not understand or appreciate. Big data, the Internet of Things, Social Media and various other trends in consumer electronics, where engineers can have an impact, are all having huge effects on our society right now.

It is our duty as the facilitators of these changes to discuss the societal and ethical implications publicly and from an informed perspective, and this is something we are largely failing to do at the moment.

Yours Faithfully, Ben Marshall, MEng, MIET

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