TED Talks Explain Engineering Ethics
TED Talks provide a platform for thought leaders and visionaries to present powerful ideas and new ways of thinking about concepts previously considered settled. Many consider TED a think tank that stimulates critical thinking and creativity, and their lectures are engaging, as the large number of You Tube views demonstrates. We highlight six TED talks focused on engineering ethics that address the importance of ethics education, explain the difference between personal and professional ethics, and discuss fundamental tenets of ethical theories.
Want to learn more about engineering ethics? We offer many courses on Engineering Ethics.
Legal vs. Ethical Liability: A Crisis of Leadership and Culture [15:05]
Professor Mel Fugate discusses ethical conduct and professional behavior in this timely TED talk. Dr. Fugate highlights examples of unethical behavior that are common to the modern workplace and offers a framework for business leaders to develop a professional and ethical environment for their employees. Concepts like bullying, retaliation, and discrimination are reviewed within the context of whether they are ethical, how that relates to their legality, and what can be done to resolve behavior that is legal but is clearly unethical.
Science can answer moral questions [23:34]
Sam Harris discusses the relationship between science and human values, and explains how science can build on its existing moral authority to provide the answer to questions related to good and evil, right and wrong. This discussion focuses on the importance of scientists and engineers using their rational training to shape human values and help society determine what constitutes a good life.
The Significance of Ethics and Ethics Education in Daily Life [10:31]
Michael Burroughs is a philosopher and ethicist who discusses the concepts of principles and character and how their relationship to ethics. He approaches the topic from the perspective of an educator, and his TED talk emphasizes the value of including ethics education in the curriculum of all programs. Broad concepts such as morality and ethical behavior are related to specific problems society is struggling to resolve and how they can lead to good and ethical outcomes. This lecture offers a good foundation for engineers looking for the best way to integrate their personal values and beliefs with the ethical framework provided by the engineering profession.
It’s time to question bio-engineering [19:42]
This Ted Talk explores the ethical limits of bioengineering, asking the question “How far can humans push the genetic manipulation of animals before we cross the line between legitimate scientific research and the unethical exploitation of animals?” Bioengineering is unique compared to the more traditional engineering disciplines, and, consequently, it represents a set of unique challenges related to ethics because it draws from other areas of science – biology, engineering, and medicine – that have their own specific ethical standards. A challenging ethical question for bioengineers is how should they balance the goal of improving the human condition by modifying nature without violating the canons of medical and engineering ethics.
Engineers beyond engineering — the art of being an engineer [11:22]
Philippe Rival, a student at Imperial College, discusses the notion that engineering is more than calculations and math. He emphasizes that a new way of considering the importance of the engineering profession is required. He believes engineers must actively participate in global debates, and must strive to develop the ability to communicate the innovations they produce. This unique thinking about the engineering profession comes in the context of a world with increasing demand for local-scale engineering and solutions that can be applied everywhere.
David Schurman of Brown University discusses geo-engineering as a potential solution to unsustainable carbon emissions reductions. Geo-engineering is a controversial topic that includes using physics and chemistry to intentionally adjust the Earth’s climate as a way to counteract the effects of global warming. In this TED Talk, David focuses on Marine Cloud Brightening, an approach that “brightens” clouds over the ocean to make them reflect more sunlight, thereby reducing the warming effects of the Sun. The audience is encouraged to ponder the implications of such a drastic and far-reaching solution to global warming, and, more importantly, whether humans have the right to intentionally alter the Earth’s natural climate systems.
Learn More About Ethics and Engineering
PDH-Pro offers several courses on engineering ethics. These courses are all approved for continuing education credit.
- Ethics & Standards of Professional Conduct for Wisconsin Engineers
- Ethics & Standards of Conduct for New Jersey Engineers
- Case Study – The Fifty-Nine Story Crisis
We also have several articles on the topic. Check these out.