Medical doctors are required to take an oath to ‘do no harm,’ and to ensure that their efforts are going to be focused solely on the benefit and welfare of the patient. It’s an important process in the healthcare field because people’s lives and the quality of their lives are in question. As a result, an oath is a crucial step to help ensure that their safety comes first.
For centuries, engineers have been entrusted with the safety and well-being of countless individuals who work or live in buildings, travel over roadways and bridges, and are subjected to the benefits (and inherent, though often forgotten) risks that are associated with engineering’s feats. Today, technology is shaping the future at an obscenely rapid rate. Society is turning a new corner, witnessing new revolutions, and bearing the fruits of these engineering marvels at an ever increasing pace. While these accomplishments are glorious and something to behold, many of them (along with the concepts and designs for future creations) have the potential to directly and indirectly impact far greater populations into the future.
Keeping One Honest
In the modern business climate, the pursuit of the almighty Pound, or dollar, has become the main priority for far too many businesses around the world. Cutting corners on production, safety, and even customer service has become the norm rather than the exception. With modern high-rise building construction, advanced bridge mechanics and design, and even surgical robotic tools that can perform brain surgery via remote control, people are placed in the path of all of this new technology, even when they don’t fully comprehend its impact on them.
It may be important, then, for engineers – the individuals who design these products that will be used by countless millions through the years – to take an oath along the lines of theHippocratic Oath. Do no harm. It’s a vital element of providing security and comfort to the population that will use the products they create, but it can also serve as a potent reminder to the engineers of the world that it’s not the product that they create that will be important, but rather the people who will ultimately use that product that matters most.
This may be why Canadian Engineers do swear an oath called Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer and wear an Iron Ring on their finger to remind them of their responsibilities to the general public.
What About Laws and Ethics?
There will certainly be resistance to the idea of having to take an engineering oath in the UK, with some detractors citing laws and regulations that are in place to protect the public. All well and good, however those laws and regulations become outdated with each new step technology takes. Allowing engineers to take an oath might serve a greater purpose, not only to themselves and the industry, but also to the public that too often takes them for granted.
As of today, an online poll for Engineering and Technology News Magazine published on the 20th of February of 2012 has shown that 80% of those polled would take an engineering oath.
What do you think about swearing an oath as an Engineer? Let us know in the comments below if this is something you’d consider and why.