From the Editor

“As engineers, we were going to be in a position to change the world – not just study it.”
Henry Petroski

Engineers have the potential to change the world. However, with that, comes the great responsibility to not just change the world, but change the world for the better. In doing so, it’s imperative to keep ethics at the forefront of engineering. Volume 4 Issue 2 delves into this, exploring emerging and existing technologies and their ethicality.

I’m honored to be the Editor in Chief this year and welcome you to the second issue of Volume 4. This issue is comprised of four papers. The first paper in this edition, written by Brandon Dillon, explores spaceflight and space tourism. Companies have expanded space flight into the private sector and have begun developing technologies to commercialize space flight. Brandon highlights, however, that as the commercialization of space travel deviates from the traditional idea of space flight, questions arise about the ethicality of such endeavors.

Ryan Dale examines the ethics of the so-called “Loudness Wars” in the second paper of this edition. He explains that the audio industry has largely escaped responsibility for the effects that loud music has on listeners.

Finally, the issue has two papers on the ethicality of autonomous vehicles, taking two different approaches to the topic. My own paper, which was selected before I assumed the position of Editor in Chief, argues that autonomous vehicles are inherently unethical because of the inability to create a uniform ethical code and the programmer bias that is naturally introduced into the vehicle code. Teagan Ampe’s paper, however, suggests the Rawlsian algorithm as a possible solution to the problem and emphasizes the necessity of creating a uniform ethical code backed by the national government.

All of these articles delve into the ethicality of technology that engineers are currently creating. It is important now more than ever to analyze the impact of such technology in the world.

Isabel Yarwood Perez, VCE Editor-in-Chief


  • Sounds So Good It Hurts
    Abstract The audio industry is not typically one that most would consider dangerous. However, the act of music compression and the expansion of large music festivals has created a perfect environment for damaged hearing. The engineers in this industry are instrumental in this process, and they have an obligation to prevent these hearing related injuries. This is due to their responsibility to look out for the common good, the utility of society, their own virtue, and the implications of their ethical code. In 2017, it was estimated that the average American spends 4.5 hours a day listening to music. [1]…
  • Autonomous Accidents: The Ethics of Self-Driving Car Crashes
    Abstract Self-driving cars are no longer confined to the realm of sci-fi; a variety of autonomous vehicles are under development by companies around the world. Before they hit consumer markets, though, manufacturers, lawmakers, and society as a whole must decide how cars should behave ethically in the worst-case scenario: a possibly fatal crash. Introduction Autonomous vehicles, commonly known as self-driving cars or AVs, are no longer fantastical, a dream from the realm of science fiction. Partially automated vehicles, which include features such as advanced cruise control and self-parking, already made up 1.3% of car sales in 2016, a percentage estimated…
  • Profitable Risk: The Dangers of Consumer Spaceflight and Space Tourism
    Society is rapidly approaching an era in which ordinary civilians can purchase tickets to become passengers on space vehicles. Companies worldwide are deep in the development of infrastructure and technology to provide spaceflight for amusement and transportation. These endeavors deviate fundamentally from traditional spaceflight and raise questions about the ethical implications of commercial spaceflight with civilian passengers.
  • The Ethics of Self-Driving Cars
    Self-driving cars process huge amounts of sensory information in a very short amount of time. The processing speed of this information allows self-driving cars to make an informed decision on how to act in the case of an accident. In scenarios where casualties are unavoidable, this produces an ethical dilemma in determining who should survive, raising questions about how the value of a life should be calculated. Ultimately, because all lives are equal and no individual should have power over deciding the fate of the lives of others, self-driving cars are unethical.