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Matthew Mulloy

Ethics Essay
As professionals in the field of electrical engineering, we will be responsible,
both directly and indirectly, for the lives, physical wellbeing, and financial success of
ourselves, our colleagues, our companies, and the general public as a whole. It is
therefore required that a series of guidelines and standards be set in place to
dictate and address this responsibility. We call this a Code of Ethics.
Much like standards exist for the construction of any project in the
engineering community, so must standards be put in place for the engineers
themselves. These serve as guidelines, not only for what to do and what not to do,
but also in the evaluation of a person when the unfortunate occurs. In this way, we
may reflect upon past experiences in the lens of this code to improve future
performance within the field. We may also ensure that a negative situation will not
repeat itself. We can use a Code of Ethics to intervene in situations where a
negative outcome might present. By using these personal standards, current or
future unforeseen maledictions might be avoided.
Personally, my decisions in ethics reside with one decree; life trumps all other
considerations. When compared to this, no other argument stands up.
Conversations about employment, paychecks, finances, integrity, or company
longevity fall by the wayside. Errors in judgement, design, or coincidence which
might adverse someones life are brought to the attention of my immediate
supervisor. They are repeated tirelessly until an acceptable resolution is attained. If
my heeds are left ignored and concerns unanswered, I will seek to inform those who
might be affected by whatever appropriate means I decide. I will not sacrifice a life
for a paycheck.
When considering the ethics of the space shuttle Challenger disaster, my
group, advising professor, and I generally agreed on all topics discussed. Dr.
Dobson was most knowledgeable on the topic. We concluded that no easy answer
was available. The decrease in standards that contributed to the explosion was
more than a product of one man or a group of men. It was the product of hundreds,
if not thousands of engineers, politicians, accountants, lawyers, and others
operating sincerely to accomplish a mighty task. The slow creep of time degraded
the reliability of the shuttle in ways that were not readily apparent to anyone

involved. Each individual concern was addressed and discussed with vigor. But the
overall consequences were not known until seven people lay dead.
Of all the issues discussed, the one left unanswered was that of leadership
and accountability. Who was ultimately in charge of the shuttle? In the Gemini,
Apollo, and Mercury missions, the mission commander always had final say. His
decisions trumped that of even the flight commander. As the crew grew from one to
three, the position magnified with importance. As his and his mens lives were at
risk, the safety, success, and even start of the mission were at his discretion. It was
the opinion of the group that this authority was taken away from the mission
commander for political reasons. The hindsight bias conclusion of the group was
that this was an irresponsible decision. Chief concern for the lives of the crew are to
be placed with someone who has similar investment, identical risk, and universal
authority to accomplish.
The four members of our group as well as the professor agreed that collective
action, self-awareness, and effective communication are the virtues most directly
related to this case. The six virtues presented; integrity, honesty, fidelity, charity,
responsibility, and self-discipline, were most likely present in engineering meetings.
A lack of them or an inclusion of them would not have made a difference. Those
who designed, built, prepared, and launched the Challenger shuttle were not deficit.
The culprit was something more subtle.
Firstly, self-awareness is of most import. The ability of a person to know
themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, affects all other virtues. Knowing how
effectively you communicate and overcoming any lacking with reliable relationships
directly contributes to the virtue of communication. The ability to communicate
with efficiency and effectiveness to anyone who may need the information is
paramount. The degradation of standards was not, nor would it have been apparent
to an accountant or lawyer. It is the job of an engineer to identify and communicate
appropriately any information in a way that a non-technical professional can
understand and use. And as such, collective action is the final step. In a feat as
large as a space shuttle launch, no one person can sway the endeavor. It takes
many, from a varied group, to alter the course of the river. One man has an idea,
but knows that he is not enough. He communicates and analyzes with colleagues.
Together, they enlist the support from others. And as a whole, make change for the
better.

Engineering projects are ultimately made of people. People come together to


build. They come together to create. The come together to design. And as a group
of people is want to, conflicts arise. Goals change, differ, or come into direct
conflict. Their resolution must be guided within the confines of a professional
society. So, we have developed a Code of Ethics. And in so doing, we hope to avoid
as many disastrous or unintended consequences as possible. Hopefully, we will
succeed.