, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 179-187

Engineering Ethics Beyond Engineers’ Ethics

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Abstract

Engineering ethics is usually focused on engineers’ ethics, engineers acting as individuals. Certainly, these professionals play a central role in the matter, but engineers are not a singularity inside engineering; they exist and operate as a part of a complex network of mutual relationships between many other people, organizations and groups. When engineering ethics and engineers’ ethics are taken as one and the same thing the paradigm of the ethical engineer which prevails is that of the heroic engineer, a certain model of the ideal engineer: someone both quite individualistic and strong enough to deal with all the moral challenges that could arise. We argue that this is not the best approach, at least today in our interrelated world. We have achieved a high degree of independence from nature by means of technology. In exchange for this autonomy we have become increasingly tied up with very complex systems to which we constantly delegate new tasks and powers. Concerns about safety keep growing everywhere due to the fact that now we have a sensitive awareness of the huge amount of power we are both consuming and deploying, thus, new forms of dialogue and consensus have to be incorporated at different levels, in different forums and at different times. Within these democratic channels of participation not just the needs and interests, but also the responsibilities and mutual commitments of all parties should be taken into account.