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As a general rule engineers and scientists do not harbour any ambition to disadvantage their fellow man, quite the reverse! They get up every day with an ambition to improve the situation and do so against a backdrop of hard-earned truths, practices and physical laws. In effect; they come to the party with an ethical framework of investigation, experimentation, innovation, design, build, deploy and support! It is in their DNA; forged (tried and tested) over hundreds of years and one of the founding components of our technological advance and success. Without such discipline; such a framework; such experience and knowledge we would still be in the realms of Alchemy and Witchcraft!
Outside this sector, we see a far fuzzier, uncertain and ill-defined world of management that spans every human activity from companies to institutions, governments and the military. Here the rules of the game are far more uncertain and dynamic, and the ethical framework far less developed and clear.
In every domain we remain governed by human behaviours and fallibilities. And to err is human - that is; mistakes happen no matter what laws and frameworks are in place. Even if we are open, honest and ethical stuff still goes wrong! But overall our intent is to minimise the occurrence of damage, hurt, injury and death!
In this lecture and the associated series on management we lay out the essentials of professional ethics and give examples of classic fails. We also include exercises in ethics for students to engage and think through.
In the same way laws do not eradicate crime; ethics cannot stop all errors!