ethics

Topics: Life-critical system, Systems engineering, Safety Pages: 4 (1354 words) Published: May 7, 2014
Is Lying Wrong? (Or Orderly Dissent)

How wrong is it to lie? Take the hypothetical situation where you are in charge of the software for the launch of a rocket that will put a satellite into space. The launch director requires that various people, including you and a meteorologist "sign off" on launching the rocket. The weather is very overcast, and lightning has been detected in the distance. The meteorologist gives the "OK" to launch the rocket. You, however, have serious doubts that the weather is suitable for a launch, but you are not a meteorologist. The software checks all complete successfully, and the software is in perfect working condition for launch. Do you make something up that says the software is not ready to delay for another day with better weather? Do you say yes the software is "OK" and go for launch? [Ward90]

It is important to have process in organizations which encourage objections to bad decisions, but still allow decisions to be made and progress following those decisions. For example, the US military allows subordinates to ask "Are you sure?" to an order to give the superior officer the opportunity to rethink the decision. If the officer says yes, the order must be carried out, but the simple questioning of the order is not insubordinance. This allows the safety of the organization to be increased by allowing dissenting opinions without causing work to come to a standstill.

You say "yes" to the rocket launch. The range officer, the person responsible to make sure the rocket doesn't deviate too far from its course and leave the rocket launch area, is forced to destruct the rocket as it quickly takes the wrong trajectory. Later investigation determines that the rocket was indeed hit by lightning. [Ward90] The satellite and the rocket were both lost costing hundreds of millions or billions of dollars. In the end, which would have been worse, lying and saving the rocket and satellite, or not lying and having the rocket...
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