Indirect or rule utilitarianism posits that individuals are mandated to conform their behavior to those rules whose value are optimally accepted in comparison to other rules (Yeager, p.87). The Engineering profession encourages innovativeness that generates products that ease life or adds value to other existing products. The expertise of engineers can be seen almost everywhere. For instance, when one awakens in the morning, cooking and ironing of clothing are necessary; and one has to move to reach their destination. In all these instances, some engineering innovations such as energy production, gas cooker, iron box, and a vehicle, train or aero plane, are utilized to meet these particular needs, thus improving the living standards of an individual.
On the other side, production of electricity requires the use of natural resources, whose use or production interferes with the equilibrium in the ecosystem. Therefore, the principle of utility, which holds that an action is right if it generates a similar or increased happiness of everyone involved in it relative to any other action and wrong if it proves otherwise, is applicable. That is to say that as much as technological innovations pose some threat to the environment, the overall happiness or pleasure brought about by the innovations approve of their moral rightness. ASME has a code of ethics that are twofold; the first group is made up of The Fundamental Principles, which are three, and the second group is made up of The Fundamental Canons, which are ten. This paper will, therefore, focus on indirect / rule utilitarian analysis of provision ‘5’ under The Fundamental Canons.
Indirect / Rule Utilitarian Analysis of the ASME Code of Ethics
Provision ‘5’ of the ASME Code of Ethics goes, “Engineers shall respect the proprietary information and intellectual property rights of others, including charitable organizations and professional societies in the engineering field.” This provision serves the purpose of protecting the innovations engineered by other players in this profession from any form of duplication of ideas, hence ensuring that the pioneers of an idea are the sole beneficiaries of a particular invention. The possible benefits accrued due to an invention include the brand and of course financial returns.
A brand is essential for any kind of enterprise since it packages itself with the perception of quality products and services and a touch of professionalism that brings status to the end-product and the manufacturer. Moreover, financial benefit is the primary reason for engaging in any enterprise, and engineering is not an exception. Hence, respecting the “intellectual property rights of other” professionals by not reproducing the efforts they have invested in any innovations guarantees optimum returns. This respect between professionals ensures utility benefit in the longer term. It is useful in the sense that the innovators of a particular gadget reap their desires and as a result attain pleasure and happiness which are intrinsically valuable.
However, a utilitarian approach to this provision ‘5’of the ethical codes of the engineers reveals a situation where this provision can be flouted, but at the same time regarded as morally right. For instance, another engineer may have an innovative idea that will improve on the available technological innovation in the market. A good example is that of a phone or a surgical device that lacks particular accessory(s), such as new applications or efficiency and effectiveness respectively, requirements that will benefit the general public. Any improvement, however, may require an innovation to be studied first in order to synchronize any value added innovative strategy with the available innovation. Such value addition may seem to be a breach of the “intellectual property rights of others” as envisaged in the ASME ethical codes. On the contrary, the indirect/rule utilitarian analysis of the aforementioned action of value addition is considered morally right since it is for the benefit of the public majority.
Moreover, another action whose consequences may seem a breach of the ASME ethical code concerns the price of byproducts of an innovation. More often than not, a new invention comes with a hefty price valuation that discourages the beneficiaries from acquiring it. Perhaps, the logistical process involved requires a huge investment, which trickles down to exorbitant selling price of consumer gadgets. Consequently, some manufacturers may decide to come up with a more or less similar invention that is affordable to a majority. Focusing on the example of the phone, manufacturers will need to study a specific original brand in the market in order for them to reproduce a similar gadget while employing cheaper raw materials. This has an overall benefit since the selling price of the new byproduct is lowered in accordance with the original gadget; thus, a majority can own a phone and fulfill their desire to communicate easily. Accessing the wider populace with such an innovation affords them the happiness and pleasure that comes with possessing a tool of communication.
In order to maintain compliance with the ethical codes, ASME enforces some strategies that curb any questionable conduct. Some of them include stern consequences, like criminal and disciplinary action, which involves a revoking of one’s license or expulsion
The aforementioned scenarios are entrenched in the philosophy of utilitarianism, which strives to delineate a moral action from an immoral one by checking all the consequences of the action seeking to optimize affirmative utilities and hence, the consequences that seek to optimize negative utilities of the specific action at a glance.