Science, Medicine & Technology Program

Summer 2018

Ethics, Technology, and Society


Professor Dr. Ashraf Ghaly, P.E.
Department Engineering
Office Olin 102D
Tel., email 518-388-6515, ghalya@union.edu

Lectures: MW 1:00 PM-4:00 PM, Wold-028. Click HERE for instructor's class presentations.


In today’s technologically advanced society, professionals are faced with situations that require more than technical knowledge, common sense, and good judgment. Many of the issues borne by the complexity of modern day life are not only interwoven but are also multidimensional. One of these dimensions is ethics. To illustrate how ethics, technology, and society intersect, this course offers case-based situations where students will learn from well-documented cases how to engage ethics principles in the decision making process, and how to put into practice the experience gained in the classroom from discussing various scenarios and from making one’s own arguments. Four class hours. No prerequisite.


Class discussion & participation = 15%
Midterm exam (July 25) = 35%
Term paper & presentation = 15%
Final exam (August 7) = 35%

90+ = A 85+ = A(-) 80+ = B(+) 75+ = B 70+ = B(-) 65+ = C(+) 60+ = C 55+ = C(-) 50+ = D




Major Topics
The course syllabus depends on a number of sources for its course materials. In addition to the case-based approach that will be used in general to illustrate ethical dilemmas, the course will address the following topics:

This course will introduce ethics using a case-based approach. The main thrust of this method is to generate class discussion to illustrate the relationship between ethics and technology in today’s modern society. Cases are gathered from several sources and comprise a wide variety of situations that could be faced by professionals. Some of these cases are:

  • Aberdeen Three
  • Big Dig Collapse
  • Bridges
  • Cadillac Chips
  • Cartex
  • Citicorp
  • Disaster Relief
  • Electric Chair
  • Fabricating Data
  • Gilbane Gold
  • Green Power?
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • "Groupthink" and the Challenger Disaster
  • Halting a Dangerous Project
  • Highway Safety Improvements
  • Hurricane Katrina
  • Hyatt Regency Walkway Disaster
  • Hydrolevel
  • Incident at Morales
  • Innocent Comment?
  • Late Confession
  • Love Canal
  • Member Support by IEEE
  • Moral Development
  • Oil Spill?
  • Peter Palchinsky: Ghost of the Executed Engineer
  • Pinto
  • Profits and Professors
  • Pulverizer Reformed Hacker?
  • Resigning from a Project
  • Responsible Charge
  • Scientists and Responsible Citizenry
  • Sealed Beam Headlights
  • Service Learning
  • Shortcut?
  • "Smoking System"
  • Software for a Library
  • Sustainability
  • Testing Water ... and Ethics
  • Training Firefighters
  • TV Antenna
  • Unlicensed Engineer
  • Where Are the Women?
  • XYZ Hose Co.
  • The 2010 Loss of the Deepwater Horizon and the Macondo Well Blowout
  • Units, Communications, and Attention to Detail—the Loss of the Mars Climate Orbiter
  • Expensive Software Bug—the Loss of the Mars Polar Lander
  • A Construction Inspector's Responsibility in Collapsed Cantilevered Balcony
  • Computer Programs and Moral Responsibility—The Therac-25 Case
  • Roundabouts
  • Interface



1. Each student is free to choose the paper subject they like to investigate. Students in this course come from many departments, thus subjects that are closely or remotety related to a student's major are acceptable but the selected subjects must have a relationship with the course's three themes: ethics, technology, and society. Students may wish to address in their paper a case/problem of interest or work on a subject that has intrigued them but is not necessarily related to their major.

2. Students can select their subject at anytime during the term but no later than the 4th week of the term (July 25).

3. All papers must be on different subjects. A subject cannot be selected by more than one student. A student that was the first in selecting a given subject would be the only one entitled to it. The earlier you select a subject, the wider the selection available to you.

4. You have the right to drop a subject you selected and select a different one as long as this is done no later than the 4th week of the term (provided that the new subject had not been previously taken by another student).

5. Once you settled on a subject, email the instructor a title for your paper and one sentence description of your intended subject. The instructor will post the titles and the one sentence description of all papers (without the names of students) on the course's website as soon as the email has been received. This will serve as reference of subjects already taken and have become unavailable.


Students may collect the information and materials pertaining to their chosen subject from any of the following sources (in no specific order): the Internet, technical publications, professional journals, magazines, textbooks, movies, documentaries, and all other credible sources including interviews with knowledgeable individuals.

Students are required to cite in their report all the sources they used in their research. Any standard method of citation is acceptable. Internet sites are cited using the address (URL) of those sites. All other references are to be cited with the name of author, year, title of paper or book, page, and publisher.


At noon on Saturday August 4, the final electronic paper is due (email to instructor). The paper should be equivalent to at least 10 pages of text (Times font, double-spaced type with one inch margin on all sides). In addition to the 10 pages of text, students may add pictures, tables, graphs, charts, figures, and any other supplementing materials as they see fit. The total length of the paper, however, may not exceed the equivalent of 20 pages.

Grading Criteria

In addition to the written report, students are required to make an oral class presentation. The presentations will take place during the last class of the term.

The grade of this paper will be assigned based on the quality and organization of the paper, relevance of content to the subject under consideration, understanding, clarity of presentation, organization, and demonstration of ability to address questions with comprehension.

A. Ghaly HomepageUnion College Homepage