09:30 AM - 11:00 AM
21 October 2023

Thinking Differently About Ethics

State of the Industry / Profession

This is a two-part presentation where we invite you to view ethics in a new light. Rather than just a set of rules to be followed, ethical issues can also be viewed as mental and moral challenges that, as Civil Engineers, can substantially impact the world around us.

The first half of this session focuses on cognitive biases that complicate life for all of us. As much as we would like to believe we are rational thinkers and base our decisions on evidence alone, the reality is far more complicated. We will examine these biases and reexamine well-known engineering failures such as the pedestrian bridge collapse at the Florida International University and the Space Shuttle Challenger. We will also discuss how to address these biases and combat their influence.

Building off this foundation, the second half focuses on the broader ethical impact of engineering decisions. Government-employed engineers often face unique ethical and moral circumstances because their decisions affect a community's social and economic well-being. Decisions such as where streets and water/sewer infrastructure are built can result in immense impacts to a community, sometimes effectively destroying it, preventing economic development and opportunities, or diverting development and opportunities away from it. This session will use several case studies to discuss how Interstate highway projects or the failure to provide water systems or sanitary sewer facilities have negatively impacted communities — often disproportionately in already disadvantaged communities and how, by understanding the ethical impacts, we are implementing projects that can change that.

PDH 1.5