Sunday, November 2, 2014

Moral Values in Engineering


"Moral bankruptcy: the state a person reaches when he trades away or violates too many of his core moral values and commitments. He may also lose important relationships either as a cause or consequence of his loss of moral commitments. Someone who is morally bankrupt may or may not recognize that he has reached this state. 
As someone working in moral philosophy, I argue that our deepest moral values and commitments are a crucial part of our self-identity. When a person knows his nonnegotiable moral commitments and the values he holds most dearly, he knows himself in a very important way. He knows his limits and his boundaries. He knows his motivations as well as how he tends to act in situations that require a moral response. "

The forgoing quote is what I felt engineering had become, and then there was the prostitution element. By prostitution I meaning the selling of opinions which matched the clients needs, not necessarily my true opinion. This removed all my passion for the available work. It was time to change when I realized I was morally suffering. That is when I took the step to set up my own company, to be able to choose what I would do and what I would not.

Self-identity is a big issue, but so is making a few bucks. I did not take on any prostitution type clients, however there were a number that requested a geotechnical investigation and did not use the results.  Oh well, shit happens. Most stopped being clients. There were those to who took the report and did whatever, and never called again. It is and was important to do right, regardless of what the client wanted. Clients always want more than there site can deliver. It was cheaper than the adjoining land because it was a swamp that had topsoil fill on it. You bought it without a geotechnical investigation, now you need to live with the cost of development, or sell it and chalk this all up to the cost of education. Doing a less than adequate job of development will reduce the value of the project down the line. If you want a structure that will be good only short term, perhaps you should use someone with more life before retirement. I do not have time to recover before retirement if I get sued for unprofessional conduct.  But then, what is professional? Gambling is not professional engineering, but professional gambling.

We engineers geotechnical typically know what will work, but there is a space between that and what we know will not work. Developers like to keep there cost low, and like to work in the unknown area between these two, but most are gone in two years when the problems start. The problems are for the new owners, the original owners have moved on. There are numerous problem buildings around. Lots of problem yards, parking lots and roadways which have issues. Oh well, I am retired. Most are not my designs that have issues. A few are, but none of these followed my designs. We geotechnicals do not have control over the actual construction. The owners/developers can build as they like, and not follow the plans.  Oh well, shit happens.

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