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The Public Health, Safety and Welfare: An Analysis of the Social Responsibilities of Engineers

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1 Author(s)
McFarland, Michael C. ; Department of Computer Science, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA.

What obligations does an engineer have to protect the public interest in the creation and use of new technologies? How can the engineer best act so as to fulfill his or her responsibilities to the public? This paper considers these questions from the point of view of social ethics, by means of case studies of engineers in the nuclear power industry. An ethical framework is presented that allows us to define the social responsibilities of engineers. The modes of action generally available to engineers for fulfilling those responsibilities are then analyzed. All of these are judged to be inadequate, leading to the conclusion that unless the decision-making structures for the use of technology are changed, engineers will continue to be frustrated in their ability to ensure the responsible use of technology.

Published in:

Technology and Society Magazine, IEEE  (Volume:5 ,  Issue: 4 )