Professional ethics is an inseparable part of every profession. According to the definition, professional ethics encompass the personal, organizational and corporate standards of behavior expected of professionals. To clarify and assure ethic rules disciplinary codes exist for specific fields. These codes are required, because professionals often have to operate private data of their clients to apply their skills for making judgments and decisions unobtainable for the general public. One of the exemplary set of professional ethic rules is the Hippocratic Oath to which doctors have been adhered for about 23 centuries.
Professional aims, that engineers should do:
Firstly keep the safety, health and wealth of the public.
Publish statements of habitants in an acceptable manner.
Operate with every employer and/or client as with loyal agents.
Fulfill services only in given areas.
Do not allow misleading acts.
Reveal the dignity, liability and ethics to elevate the professions reputation and honor.
The following section is about rules of practice. Numerous advanced details explain the meaning of every canon in subparagraphs.
According to the NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers, every engineer shall hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public, perform services only in the areas of their competence, issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner, act for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees and avoid deceptive acts.
The last section includes professional obligations for engineers. There are nine paragraphs and many advanced subparagraphs too.
Specific rules for professionals in computer science can be found in section two, “MORE SPECIFIC PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES” of the ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.
However, it is always hard to guarantee the execution of all norms and rules. Failures occurred by chance or intentionally we can’t predict, but can learn from them. As Henry Petroski mentioned in his work “To Engineer is Human”: “Failures in turn lead to greater safety margins and, hence, new periods of success. To understand what engineering is and what engineers do is to understand how failures can happen and how they can contribute more than successes to advance technology" (Petroski 83)
“On the 4th June 1996 at 12:33 GMT (UTC) the European Space Agency launched a new rocket, Ariane 5, on its maiden unmanned flight. Ariane exploded after 40 seconds of its lift-off. Although this was an unmanned flight and therefore there were no human casualties, there is no reason to expect that the outcome would have been any different if the flight had been manned. In such an event all onflight crew and passengers would have been killed. Remember as we proceed through this case that this was a project of the very experienced European Space Agency. The project cost was $ 7 billion. Part of the payload were four satellites, Cluster, that would engage in a scientific investigation. These satellites had taken many years to develop and cost around $ 100 million. They were irreplaceable" (Dalal, Sandeep, and Rajender Singh Chhillar 344).
Here what James Gleick said about the failure in the report: “It took the European Space Agency(ESA) 10 years and $7 billion to produce Ariane 5, a giant rocket capable of hurling a pair of three-ton satellites into orbit with each launch and intended to give Europe overwhelming supremacy in the commercial space business. All it took to explode that rocket less than a minute into its maiden voyage last June, scattering fiery rubble across the mangrove swamps of French Guiana, was a small computer program trying to stuff a 64-bit number into a 16-bit space. One bug, one crash. Of all the careless lines of code recorded in the annals of computer science, this one may stand as the most devastatingly efficient" (Dalal, Sandeep, and Rajender Singh Chhillar 344).
After analyzing the accident professionals came to a decision that the root of the problem was in the SRI (inertial reference system, part of the Control System of Ariane 5) reused 10-year-old horizontal bias module which was part of the Ariane 4 software. Although the document stated the necessity of fitting horizontal bias in 16 bits, there was no precise specification connected with a reusable module and the program just couldn’t find anything in the code to help it converse data from 64-bit floating to 16-bit integer.
So, this failure could have been avoided simply by the proper control of the programmed code and implementing the compatible software.
The legal issue
However, a field of engineering doesn’t have a simple uniform list of ethical rules for the entire profession, covering all specializations. Nevertheless, there are numerous professional societies that conduct codes of ethics for particular fields, like ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct or NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers.
In case an engineer engaged in unethical conduct and it is founded by the licensing entity, the engineer may be punished with license probation, reprimand, censure, licensure revocation, sanction or monetary fine.
According to the revised in July 2007 NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers: all of policy statements, rulings and other guides that interpret the scope of "NSPE Code of Ethics" were declined because of illegal disturbing the engineering rights, that are protected by antitrust laws.
"NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers." Jom 45.4 (1993): 14-16. Web.
Anderson, Ronald E. "ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct." Communications of the ACM Commun. ACM 35.5 (1992): 94-99. Web.
Dalal, Sandeep, and Rajender Singh Chhillar. "Case Studies of Most Common and Severe Types of Software System Failure." International Journal of Advanced Research in Computer Science and Software Engineering 2.8. Web.