Ethics Assessment

Select one of the three scenarios below. Write a report for senior management which expands on your chosen case by describing the professional and ethical issues raised by that particular scenario.

The descriptions below are only brief outlines. Please note the lack of references in the scenarios. Normally there would need to be plenty of specific references in such accounts. This is deliberately to encourage you to research and include references on your chosen case, looking particularly for any issues, on which you can comment from an ethical or project management point of view. Marks will be awarded for demonstrating selection of more reliable sources in your references.

In particular, you should explain which, if any, ethical principles and or codes of conduct might be relevant in this sort of situation. Your report may cover technical matters where necessary, but the marks will be awarded mainly for coverage of the ethical issues. Your report should be well-structured and no longer than 2000 words. References and appendices are not included in the word count.

  1. Online Freedom of Speech

There are important historical reasons for giving all people a right to free speech. It is also a human right, according to the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights:
Article 19
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
This is also enshrined in International Law as Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However, freedom of speech (which we can assume is part of ‘freedom of expression’) has never been considered an absolute freedom and the relative importance attached to it varies between cultures and between times.

Moreover, as use of the Internet has increased in the 21st Century, it seems necessary continually to increase ‘content removal’. For example, Google received 12,688 requests to remove online content from Russian Government and Legal Institutions in the period January to June 2020 [1]. During the same period Facebook removed 32.1 million examples of ‘unacceptable content’. For January to June 2021 the figure was 56.7 million [2]. Does this mean that the human right to ‘freedom of opinion and expression’ is now outdated? In the ‘age of the Internet’ how, if at all, can we come to useful international agreement about this? If you were a manager of an online platform responsible for content approval, how exactly would you approach these questions? Would you simply ignore the law or would you be actively campaigning to remove Article 19?

[1] Source: accessed 22.02.2022
[2] Source: accessed 22.02.2022

  1. Design for Users

To what extent should designers take account of the wishes of users?

For example, one way a university campus might be designed is by observing the behaviour of students, faculty, and administrators and then making all the buildings and facilities as convenient as possible for them.

On the other hand, an inspired architect might deliberately produce a campus that made few concessions to convenience. Such a campus would impose its ideas on users – importantly signalling that they are now in a different intellectual environment and should change their behaviour. The campus buildings might be separated, inconveniently requiring walking outside, but enabling their imposing blank walls to signal the importance of what goes on inside them. If the paths between the buildings were at right angles and did not take the shortest route, then the users of the campus would be given repeated clues that this is not an unstructured informal environment but instead a separate and highly structured one.

Similarly, Airbus, deliberately made the cockpits and controls of its airliners noticeably unfamiliar to pilots. They were very different from previous aircraft cockpits. Most importantly, the central control yokes in front the pilots were replaced by a small computer-style joystick to one side. This would not be what user-centred design might at first suggest, since pilots would have all been trained on conventional controls. Airbus designers considered it to be more important to signal strongly to pilots that they were no longer directly flying the aircraft but instead giving instructions to the computers that fly the aircraft. It is also important to note that not all modern airliner cockpit designers have adopted this approach.

If you were the manager of a design project – you can choose any project from a small online application, through to a new generation of airliners or a university campus – how exactly would you choose among these different approaches?

  1. Liability, Laws, and Insurance for Autonomous Vehicles

The problems which are currently slowing the introduction of autonomous vehicles are mainly ethical, cultural, and legal.

Many commentators, both academic and amateur, on driverless cars have discovered, or re-
discovered, the so-called ‘trolley problem’. It is not always clear whether they think that this
rather well-covered area of philosophy offers a solution to problems listed in the preceding
paragraph or if they are exhibiting what one expert in AI ethics has named ‘the folly of
trolleys’. [3]

Do such philosophical dilemmas mean that we should never take driving completely out of the hands of human drivers, despite the fact that automation has been a major contributor to safety in other fields? In the event of an accident, is it always necessary to have a person to blame? Is that the only available legal and insurance model? Trials of driverless cars have been largely successful but there have been accidents – some of them serious.

Assume you are a consultant to the Ministry of Transport in your home country. What would you recommend in terms of laws, liabilities, and regulations for the manufacture and use of autonomous vehicles? Under what circumstances, if any, would you permit their use on public roads? How would accidents be investigated? Who, if anyone, would be held responsible for accidents? Which ethical principles, if any, would guide you in managing this process? Is the philosophical debate mainly a distraction? Are there any countries you could point to as good examples of how it should be done?

[3] H. M. Roff, “The folly of trolleys: Ethical challenges and autonomous vehicles,” Brookings, 17-Dec-2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 07-Mar-2019].

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