Ethics Paper 1

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is the world’s largest association consisting of engineers, scientists, computer scientists, and even medical doctors and physicists; some historical figures such as Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison once played key leadership roles in this organization during the time of establishing AC power throughout the US.

 

Link to this organization’s Code of Ethics: http://www.ieee.org/about/corporate/governance/p7-8.html

 

How do your disciplines’ ethical guidelines incorporate social responsibility? Why might this be important to you and your future in this field?

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has put forth a professional code of ethics highlighting some of the virtues that it expects its members to adhere to in order for them to commit to its standards of ethical and professional conduct. It integrates social responsibility by stating that its members will agree to abide by some very common sense guidelines such as: “to accept responsibility in making decisions consistent with the safety, health, and welfare of the public, and to disclose promptly factors that might endanger the public or the environment.”

It also aims to create standards of integrity and self-improvement by stating that its members will agree to: “be honest and realistic in stating claims or estimates based on available data, … reject bribery in all its forms” and “seek, accept, and offer honest criticism of technical work, to acknowledge and correct errors, and to credit properly the contributions of others”

In order for me to do well in any future internships or full-time positions, I will have to keep myself accountable for not only understanding the technology I will be using, but for crediting any work that has come from another source, as well as ensuring that my work is in fact in good standing through peer review (i.e. reviewing code with others). These are all items that also pertain to the IEEE code of conduct.

What are potential ethical dilemmas or conflicts of interest that might be of concern within your field of study? (2-3 examples, real-world if possible–look up case studies in Norlin’s newspaper and academic databases.)

One topic of concern found not just in electrical and computer engineering but many other fields as a matter of fact, is plagiarism. In this domain, plagiarism may consist of the copying of code without citation, hardware or circuit designs, or even data. Many people and even companies have been found to have copied code or designs from other sources without crediting the original author. One example is the ongoing lawsuits regarding the “systematic copying of features” between Apple and Samsung. In 2014, Apple claimed,

“Samsung took a tap-from-search technology that allows someone searching for a telephone number or address on the web to tap on the results to call the number or put the address into a map. It also points to a Google Quick Search Box in the Android-powered Galaxy Nexus steals from patented technology used by virtual assistant Siri to answer queries in the iPhone. It also claims patents on autocorrection when words are typed. In addition, Apple says Samsung copied “Slide to Unlock,” which allows users to swipe the face of their smartphone to use it.” (Apple sues Samsung for $2bn as tech rivals head back to court, The Guardian)

Another ethical dilemma that can arise is the issue of device safety for a product. There are many cheap alternatives to products such as laptop chargers. However, many of these products are so cheaply made that they can damage the electronics of the end user or even interfere with other features of the device such as the onboard WiFi card. This dilemma essentially arises when some aftermarket manufacturer only asks themselves: how cheap can I make this device and still remain competitive with the original product?

What type of conflicts and/or ethical dilemmas from within your discipline pertain to your academic interests? Can you produce (or construct) a real-world example?

An example of a conflict from my discipline that pertains to my academic interests is the usage of code that was written by someone else. In programming, there are many code resources that are available and that you can use as inspiration for your own code; specifically, there is a resource called ‘GitHub’ that others can use as a resource to study code that others have produced. I believe it’s appropriate to leverage some of this available code in a project so that someone can learn good coding techniques, as long as the entire purpose of reproducing that code is for self-learning and academia. However, for someone attempting to start something of high value such as a company, this could create legal issues. The dilemma arising from this scenario is then, how similar can code be made without running into any copyright infringement issues?

With this in mind, is there anything you hope to change (in terms of society, policy, etc.)  by pursuing your academic interests? Why? What methodology would you like to see employed to make this change? Who, exactly, will make the change?

How might your discipline’s particular Code of Ethics be applied as a catalyst for enacting this change?

I think the IEEE code of ethics the contains sufficient guidelines for any engineer. I believe that any engineer can be successful as long as he or she holds themselves accountable for what they know, and continue to seek more understanding of the technology they are using. If anything, I would like to see more openness toward code reuse. This includes opening patents to certain pieces of software so that people can learn and create code of the same quality. There is a stigma toward using another person’s code, and I believe that if professors acknowledged its usage in classrooms or even if textbooks did so, that would create a more welcome environment for students willing to learn how to implement something in code. The IEEE code of ethics catalyzes this process by stating that it expects its members to cite works of other, which is indication of more openness to my proposed change.

Works Cited

“Apple Sues Samsung for $2bn as Tech Rivals Head Back to Court.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 30 Mar. 2014. Web. 18 Apr. 2016. <https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/mar/31/apple-sues-samsung-for-2bn&gt;.

“IEEE IEEE Code of Ethics.” IEEE. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2016. <http://www.ieee.org/about/corporate/governance/p7-8.html&gt;.

 

 

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