When Innovation and Ethics Collide

How should engineers think about ethics when developing new technology?

3 min read
Illustration of a suspended balance scale weighing two planet earths.
Illustration: Dan Page

When I started my career, I was sometimes reluctant to confess that I was an engineer. But I became proud of my profession. I thought of all that we had accomplished, and I would say that we had changed the world. We had created the Internet, cellphones, GPS, lasers, computers, and so much else that was an integral part of modern life.

Of course, when I, and other engineers, said that we had changed the world, the implication was that we had made it better. Now this has been put into question. Every day it seems that there are stories in the media saying that tech has gone out of control and is causing harm. Privacy has been lost, the cellphone is dangerously addictive, spam and scams are omnipresent, security is weak, conspiracies and fake news abound, powerful monopolies have evolved, jobs will be lost to AI and robotics, and so forth.

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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