PUBLIC LECTURE: Engineering and Social Justice
A public lecture by Donna Riley, Associate Professor of Engineering Picker Engineering Program, Smith College.
Professional ethics for engineers as traditionally conceived focuses narrowly on the decisions and actions of individual professional engineers, leaving little room for meaningful public participation. A social justice framework is helpful for opening up the conversation to the public and to the ethics of organisational or societal level questions about engineering and technology. Questions such as who benefits and who bears the cost of technology in society come to the fore, and create a reflexive moment for engineers to critique and re-imagine our own practices.
As an example of this critique and new directions that might be created through the social justice lens, we will consider the case of the Grand Challenges of Engineering put forth by the United States’ National Academy of Engineering. By examining the process of how these global priorities for the profession were identified, how they were justified, and the proposed processes for meeting the challenges, we might envision a new set of processes for determining more socially just ends for engineering, as well as more just means for achieving those ends.
Reframing the issue of participation in engineering as issue of public ethics in a social justice frame similarly leads to a critique of current discourse around underrepresentation of women and minorities and points to direct conversation and action to dismantle exclusionary systems of power and privilege in the profession of engineering.
This lecture is a part of the Institute of Advanced Studies 2012 lecture series ‘Global Transformation and Public Ethics’. This series of free public lectures aims to stimulate considered debate about urgent issues in public ethics and policy as well as reflecting on ways we can improve public discourse about such issues. For more information, visit: https://www.ias.uwa.edu.au/lectures/ethics
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