Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
provide benefits to the profession as a whole, notably that we as a profession
can be trusted. This top-down benefit has incremental value for every engineer.
Two common sayings come to mind about top-down benefits. Financial analysts
often say about the effect of a growing economy on individual companies: “A
rising tide lifts all ships.” Similarly, environmentalists ask us “to think globally,
but act locally.” In this sense, the individual engineer or design professional is an
emissary of the profession, and the profession's missions include a mandate toward
Research introduces a number of challenges that must be approached at all
three ethical levels. At the most basic, microethical level, laws, rules, regulations, and
policies dictate certain behaviors. For example, environmental research, especially
that which receives federal funding, is controlled by rules overseen by federal and
state agencies. Such rules are often proscriptive, that is, they tell you what not to
do , but are less clear on what actually to do . Also, establishing a legal threshold is
not necessarily the “right” thing to do.
At the next level, beyond legal considerations, the engineer is charged with
being a loyal and faithful agent to the clients. Researchers are beholden to their
respective universities and institutions. Engineers and architects working in com-
panies and agencies are required to follow mandates to employees (although never
in conflict with their obligations to the engineering profession). Thus, engineers
must stay within budget, use appropriate materials, and follow best practices as
they concern their respective designs. For example, if an engineer is engaged
in work that would benefit from collaborating with another company working
with similar genetic material, the engineer must take precautionary steps to avoid
breeches in confidentiality, such as those related to trade secrets and intellectual
The highest level, the macroethical perspective, has a number of aspects. Many
of the research and development projects address areas that could greatly benefit
society but may lead to unforeseen costs. The engineer is called to consider
possible contingencies. For example, if an engineer is designing nanomachinery
at the subcellular level, is there a possibility that self-replication mechanisms in
the cell could be modified to lead to potential adverse effects, such as generating
mutant pathological cells, toxic by-products, or changes in genetic structure
not previously expected? Thus, this highest level of professional development is
often where risk trade-offs must be considered. In the case of our example, the
risk of adverse genetic outcomes must be weighed against the loss of advancing
the state of medical science (e.g., finding nanomachines that manufacture and
deliver tumor-destroying drugs efficiently). Genetically modified food is another
example of such trade-offs.
Ongoing cutting-edge research (such as the efficient manufacturing of chem-
icals at the cellular scale, or the development of cybernetic storage and data
transfer systems using biological or biologically inspired processes) will create
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