Technological Advancement And Ethical Issues

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Engineers have dramatically contributed to the evolution of technology in the past century. Inventions in the medical, industrial and technological sectors have greatly improved the lives of everyday citizens and communities around the world. Author Wulf (2004) discusses the ethics behind engineering systems and the recent ethical issues engineers face as a whole. To elaborate, Wulf explain that in recent years engineered systems have become more complex than they have ever has been in the past century. Engineers are creating systems so complicated that it is a challenge to judge if a system is ethical or not.

From today’s prospective, systems that were designed in the past decade were seen as complex for their time but by todays standard a single engineer could build such a system in a matter of days. These systems could be assessed easily if they were ethical as they were not as complex as current systems and future outcomes could be taken into consideration. With today’s systems, the ethnical stand point is much harder to assess as the systems are becoming so complex it is hard to predict the future impacts. For example with the development of self-driving cars, machine learning algorithms are used in the development of software for antonymous vehicles. With a computer teaching itself new code it creates a whole new chapter of ethics. If a computer that taught its self its own code and a catastrophic failure were to happen, who would be held accountable? Such an incident would go beyond today’s ethics.

In my opinion, it is alarming how fast technology has improved in the past decade as the movement towards a digital age continues, analog systems are becoming more obsolete. I agree with Wulf’s point, that systems are becoming so complex that it is becoming difficult to judge whether it is ethical or not. With complex systems, they will be more susceptible to failures and uncertainty, making it difficult to distinguish if they are ethical. It is a scary though that we will be engineering self-sufficient systems that could have the potential to have human characteristics/emotions such as artificial intelligent. Such systems would go against current views on ethics; society would have to adopt a new view on ethics. Some could argue that we should not be advancing our technology due to this ethical dilemma, that some systems should not be improved or pushed beyond their limits. But that would go against the point of engineering which is to push systems to their limits and to make them more complex.

Even if new systems go against societies ethical standards, engineers should push to create new technologies as it could have the potential to improve lives in the future. The discussion arises that the nature of engineering will greatly change throughout the century, and engineers must learn to adapt to these changes in order to overcome these ethical issues.

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