General Engineering Introduction/Philosophy

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Conscience[edit]

The word "conscience" can be thought of as a blend of personal morals and society-forming instincts that are related to ethics.

Ethics versus Morality[edit]

Morals are not ethics. Morals are associated with a person. Ethics are associated with a group.

Motto/Oaths[edit]

Doctors -- "Do no Harm"
Lawyers -- "Uphold the Law"
Engineers -- "Create Standards"

National Associations[edit]

Doctors AMA
Lawyers ABA
Engineers National Academy of Engineering (NAE)
Engineers National Association of Professional Engineers

Certification[edit]

Doctors, Lawyers and Engineers take tests, go through trial periods or clinics and then possibly take another test. The exact details are determined by state law, not federal law. The AMA tracks state differences and administers licensing for doctors, the ABA for lawyers and the NCESS for engineers. Engineers typically take an FE test after their junior or senior years, work as an engineer for 3 or 4 years, and then take the PE test. PE tests are unique to the state and the field they are working in. After passing the PE test, engineers get a stamp, similar to a notary. About 1/3 of engineers end up in fields that are subject to state law and thus need to become PEs. The rest are working in fields that have no laws associated with them yet. The goal of the engineers working in new fields is to create standards and advocate for laws that expand engineering professionalism.

Privileges/Benefits[edit]

Doctors, Lawyers and Engineers are given special privileges and benefits. In return, Doctors, Lawyers and Engineers have special responsibilities. The benefits can be grouped into:

immunity from lawsuits ... AMA, ABA and NAE (and many other engineering societies) self police ... kick out bad members
no capitalism ... freedom from competitive advertising/rate comparisons, freedom from anti-trust lawsuits
freedom to innovate ... doctors innovate to improve societies health, lawyers innovate law interpretation which leads to new laws, engineers innovate to create a better standard of living

Responsibilities[edit]

This is a service hierarchy. This means for example, if an engineer had to choose between saving lives and obeying the law, engineers save lives. If an engineer had to choose between making other engineers in the firm look good or themselves look good, they make other engineers look good. The individual engineer is last, not first.

1 Others
2 The Law
3 Engineering Profession
4 Client
5 Engineering Firm
6 Other engineers
7 Yourself

The role of an engineer after a disaster is to improve standards and best practice so that future disasters are prevented. Courts assign blame. Typically the client or the firm is responsible for the consequences, not the individual engineer.

Professional Engineers (PE's) review disasters and ethical issues in the context of the service hierarchy above and evolving standards.