Engineers and Ethical Responsibilities

February 27, 2015

I occasionally make comments about “engineers” vs. “scientists” and their inherent skills, expertise, and value. I believe that society (as sadly presented by media and government) puts too much faith in what they say, how they say it, and their capabilities. Too many people base their own thinking, and defend it to others, on “scientists say” appeal to authority. I sort of understand the political pressures which cause this.

Regardless of whether the “scientists” are correct or incorrect, wise or devious, few if any scientists are obligated to act under an special or legal ethical obligation. Engineers in most countries are “licensed” as an important and “learned” professional, whereas “scientists” are not. Engineers have well-defined professional societies with ethical policies.

Dr. Drang has posted an excellent summary of this related to computer programmers calling themselves “software engineers”. To me the same issue applies with other jobs, e.g. “scientists”.

He reminds me of the “six fundamental canons” of of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)

  1. Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.
  2. Perform services only in areas of their competence.
  3. Issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.
  4. Act for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees.
  5. Avoid deceptive acts.
  6. Conduct themselves honorably, responsibly, ethically, and lawfully so as to enhance the honor, reputation, and usefulness of the profession.

– See more at: http://www.nspe.org/resources/ethics/code-ethics

I can see where the absence of such ethical behaviour can get society into difficulty.


Windows 64 Bit on Parallels

January 27, 2015

For the longest time I was using Windows 7 32 bit version on my Parallels on an Apple Mac. I had a little down time and decided to create a Windows 7 64 bit instance in Parallels.

Gosh, but it works so much better. Performance is better. Video is better. All is better.

I guess it is because the Apple Mac OSX is 64 bit. I don’t know. All I know is that it appears as if the 64 bit Windows virtual machine is what I will use.


Climate and Weather Modelling as a Wicked Problem

January 27, 2015

Dr. Tim Ball, one of my favourite authors on issues of climate, has a guest posting at Watts up with that. He discusses the Gestalt Learning theory as it applies to perception and problem-solving in climatology and how it demonstrates recent failures in climatology. He says of the IPCC:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fails for many reasons, but, not least, is the problem of specialisation. In fact, they have a much larger problem because there are crossovers and similarities within the specialisation that are markedly different between the sciences. This is demonstrated in their Working Group I (WGI) The Physical Science Basis Report and those in Social Science Reports of Working Groups II and II. Then, they run into serious problems when they tried to integrate political and economic models. Integrating them with economic and social scenarios of WG II and III and calling them projections, supposedly masked failures of the scientific predictions of WGI. This goes a long way to explaining why a few people with a political objective were able to create the unrepresentative, unreal, Summary for Policymakers (SPM).

What I really liked was his Figure 1 which shows a “simple-enough” representation of the components involved with weather, and hence climate, which demonstrates how wicked the problem actually is. To attribute weather/climate to a few simple things is a fool’s mission:

From: Ball, Tim, http://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/01/26/ipcc-climate-science-as-a-gestalt-theory-problem/


What do I think about The Oil Price Plunge?

January 14, 2015

The topic of low oil prices has come up a few times. Always an interesting, but probably impossible to really understand.

My personal view (and if I knew everything I would work in City/Wall Street) and I’ll try not to exaggerate.

  • It’s happened before … more than once.
  • It proves that forecasting, especially about the future, is difficult. “Economists didn’t see this coming”. Humm.
  • It proves that when politicians try to drive a market, they will fail.
    Thank goodness that the “price freeze” advocated by some did not go into
    force. We’d be stuck with those high and frozen government-mandated
    prices.
  • It shows the fallacy and illogicalness of some governments’ policies
    for energy and power, e.g. in Scotland we are abandoning low-cost energy
    and power and adopting (permanently) high cost energy and power …
    which is likely to significantly increase poverty, unemployment, and
    death (cold homes kills).
  • It probably accelerates the decline of the North Sea and oil and gas jobs in
    Scotland/UK will disappear soon, and probably permanent. Quite a lot of valuable
    oil and gas known to exist under the North Sea will be stranded as the
    cost to produce is just too much.
  • The economy might be positively stimulated by the money it frees up to consumers
    and industry … but government might quickly fill that void by
    increasing tax as there is now a significant tax shortfall caused by
    reduced oil prices and production. Jury is out.
  • There is increasing pressure on businesses to now reduce their prices
    since customers know that business costs ought to be lower, hence business
    are “expected” to ignore economics and free enterprise and charge based
    on costs and not charge based on market price. That’s a theme I see
    expressed by some politicians. (which is better? dunno. I guess from
    point 1 above, to do anything other than market price is risk, but what
    do I know)? If prices then are forced down by whatever reason, it
    increases the risk of deflation–which nobody wants.
  • “fat” companies will fail and the best performers will get leaner and
    perform better (saw this happen in mid 1980’s when same thing happened)
  • I notice stock markets in City and Wall Street are uncertain if low
    oil prices are good or bad (note the recent volatility). I don’t know
    either.
  • I suspect development of alternative energy and power methods are at risk.

The world now seems to be at a funny place.


Scotland Gagging on Wind Power

January 12, 2015

Terrific article by Euan Mearns Scotland Gagging on Wind Power. Read the whole thing. He focuses on “the vast electricity surplus that Scotland will produce on windy days in the years ahead. That surplus has to be paid for. Where will it go and how will it be used?”


“It seems likely that Scotland’s beautiful landscape is being wrecked in pursuit of an ideological, empty dream.”

All it takes is simple arithmetic, a bit of understanding of energy and power to see where this is heading. Not good.


Finally Gave Up on Colligo Briefcase for Mac on OSX

December 31, 2014

I have taken too much time trying to make Colligo Briefcase work on Mac OSX. It gets partially through the sync then fails with a “server error 500″. The logs are impenetrable. Can’t see any resources on their support forum to give me guidance. I emailed Colligo support, but they want me to pay them for their support. From here it looks like a flaw in their product, or at least a misleading error message.

Good news. The uninstall app seems to work.


Value of Engineers and Engineering

December 22, 2014

Awesome Dilbert from http://www.dilbert.com on 18th December.

In a world where in the media recognises only “scientists” (whatever that means) to have a voice on issues related to science, technology, and it’s impact on and use by humans, this is awesome. Chartered and Professional Engineers have legal obligations related to their work that no “scientist” I know has.

Engineers are responsible for so much more than fixing washing machines.


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