The President of Institute of Engineers of Kenya, and your entire Council, distinguished guests, my fellow Engineers, ladies and gentlemen. I feel very honoured to be invited today to give an address to you, who represent a spectrum of all types of Engineers in Kenya, and truly a significant part of our Nation’s Elite. I want to thank you most sincerely. In some way, I feel like I am being welcomed back home after many years, over 30 years, away from this family. As you can see, a lot of transformation in the meantime has happened to me, (and here I am not referring to the bald head) and also to you; I believe similar levels of transformation have happened to the Engineering profession. We were the generation of transition from the slide rule to scientific calculators, now it is the generation of transition from computer designs to the likes of “predictive simulation driven designs”, “Building Information Modelling” etc..
But a lot has changed on the human side of Engineering life, and that perhaps is what I wish to delve in, during my presentation today.
Ethical Engineering: Restoring an ethical sense to the Nation. Who holds the key?
We hear a lot today, about social entrepreneurship, and social investment. These are currents that have gotten traction in view of making a positive social change and social impact through the various avenues of economic and technical advancement. It is therefore something positive and praiseworthy. However, it is sometimes misunderstood, and at times misused. Engineering in fact is about facilitating Social comfort, and provision of efficient and functional systems and structures. How much should the Engineering we do engage with the Social realities, and seek to change them?
Social welfare, is about human and personal wellbeing as individuals and as communities. An improvement of quality of life. In a lot of these contexts it means “gearing to improve quality of life”. Oftentimes summed up as the economic status of the family and the individual, or the access to the basic needs. But should we y view this Social welfare by merely the economic indicators like per capita income? Is the measurement standard, the personal material wealth, asset value and bank accounts? The Gross National Happiness is more important than the Gross National Product.
I start off with this reflection, because often times we prefer to remain at the margins of this discussion, avoiding to rock the balance of our conscience towards a more engaged societal commitment. Currently, we are held hostage by the prevailing societal culture of corruption and, and we seem to be comfortable in our chains.
This is my first proposition to you. Ethical Engineering must go beyond mere avoidance of corrupt deals. The object and subject of any meaningful social project, including a very technical project, must consider and seek the Realization of the human person; It must promote and facilitate in some way, the flourishing of transcendental qualities in the human person within the society. That means creating an environment and society of happiness, peace, harmony, respect, service, honesty, kindness and joy.
A city of rats is not a city worth living in. A beautifully designed Digital City, infested with skin bacteria or disease a hell on earth. So too a well-designed computer system run by cyber thieves brigands and hooligans.
Indeed, Financial success or Intellectual achievements do not translate to happiness nor human personal achievement. How often I have seen the achievement of a mother in a graduation of her son or daughter that far surpasses that of the graduate!
The real threat to this personal and societal realization of transcendental values and qualities in our work Ethic, is the dominion of injustice and the prevailing of the axis of evil. These act directly to incapacitate this process of creation of a better world, a better society to live in.
Is Ethical practice possible?
The prevailing reality in our society if deplorable. An immediate answer to this question, if it were now put to a poll, may well be “most probably not in this time”. We are losers even before we begin. Unfortunately, this is why the dictatorship of Injustice and Unethical practice still thrives, as it meets no resistance.
We think ourselves unprepared, and without the necessary weapons to fight this war, and easily succumb to dominion; we submit to this reign of the Axis of Evil. Allow me to say that this is the cowardly response of many Kenyans, which I today wish to challenge in this dignified forum, to you who are the cream of our Nation. We think ourselves too few, because we are not brave enough to face the consequences of being principled. And yet, neither do we wish to acquire those tools, or sharpen them first in the realm of Ethical Engineering practice before diving into nurturing Ethics within our Nation.
Ethics, is the art of developing and “inscripting” a modus operandi, that favours the axis of goodness, and nurtures the habits and customs that facilitate transcendental values and good societal attitudes. The sum total of these good qualities we wish to establish in society, for the good of the person and society, are referred to as “The common good”.
Call for Moral Engineering in view of disastrous Social Engineering models.
As Engineers we are trained in addressing issues in an Analytic way. We develop an Analytical Mind, and Precise Executive sense.
One of the avenues of this negative influence on persons and the societal positive values, is what is been referred to today as Social Engineering. Here our adjective, which is clearly very meaningful is used as the art of designing and obtaining negative results by clearly installing negative guiding principles, to obtain certain results. In a word, it is the capturing of the soul and the mind of the person, by inputting new coordinates and programs in the human behavioral hard drive.
Can one speak of Ethical Engineering or Moral Engineering to counteract this Social Engineering? This is to be understood not only as proper engineering principals applied to bring about functional, better society, but an Engineering approach to recovery of the soul of society.
Should we only care about invariables & variables, lambda, Sigma, Rohr: Moment, Resistance, Torque, conductivity, Silicon Valley: Or can we also direct the knowns of Ethics and the Unknowns of human interaction and societal values? Is engineering all numbers without soul? Can we try solving this complex matrix?
Humpy Dumpty: is caricature of an accomplished Engineer. Smart as they come, great head, but heart caked in activity and technical buzz.
We often have let ourselves be boxed into merely numeric, inanimate interaction, as if these have no consequences on human life. We also comfortably prefer to remain in our “field of competence” while others redirect the society towards bankruptcy, or worse still hijack or hold it at ransom. What I am proposing here is to go beyond being good people, good engineers in our mix, and commit to applying those skills of strategy and analysis to influence and bring to rebirth a society whose principles are ethical.
Unethical practices not only harm the individual but they destroy humanity. Corruption is destroying our Children and humanity as a whole. That is why we are insisting so much on Religious education and mentorship of Religion in schools in a bid to Install God Values in the young ones. We ask also that to be empowered in this recovery we need to embrace God values.
It is my second proposal to this forum, that these same qualities should be applied to the Social, Economic and Political Spheres.
The Skills given and created in us Engineers may be one of the levers to redeem our Nation from the Yoke of Corruption and unethical practice. I hope at least it is clear that it applies also to the Spiritual sphere… and no one needs convincing. We need to get into an Engineering approach: Research, Analyze all the factors involved, Strategize in Design, Execute and direct programs of moral Engineering. We have done it in many companies that have Engineers as CEOs, and many professions where Engineers have excelled. Is this a Challenge way beyond us?
Is there a Program, or Application we can design so as to redirect, society to recover the lost values? This kind of program may need a different approach from a mere numerical analysis. We have serious contamination in our programs of operation, and yet we wish it away.
We have been hacked.
Someone has installed a bug, a squirrel, we have been hacked and our society computer is being run from an offsite. Can we re-hack and recover this compromised, hijacked computer?
The way of getting jobs has changed, not the golf course any more. The manner of design now allows straightforward copying of other designs. Seeking approval and supervision has no more the rigour it had, and the concerned bodies do not at all do the necessary rechecks. Our own families follow a totally different script, written in America, in entertainment dress and priorities. Our success is measured by the social life, level of drinking, showoff of wealth in public.
Now this is not only a societal problem, because the hacker has reached our household. He has hacked into our marriages, and off site a lot is happening… Our kids don’t even know us, as they know the life of Snoopy Doggy Doggy who died some 10 years ago, or the likes and last statements of Beyonce or Adele or Octopizzo or Drake in his last rap song… We have lost it even in our Churches…
The MAIN VIRUS is called GREED.
The SECOND VIRUS is called LIES and UNTRUTH.
Both have a root mother, called CULT to INDIVIDUALISM.
Are we capable of providing and installing and antivirus… of recovering this hijacked system, and taking control? Are we able to start working on a new level of Moral Engineering with our tools, to influence the good environment. They are using our hands to beat us!!
Our society has turned around and rewarded hackers for their job and condemned the best programmers. The questions they ask about the last project we did, was not which design or executional challenges you met, and how you solved them. Rather how much money did you make from the deal? Young Engineers feel it is more profitable to use their excellent skills to further Evil based incomes.
Our kids have no role models or they have misplaced moral models. How can a policeman driving the latest Rav4 tell his son not to steal? How can we demand of our children sobriety, honesty, diligence when they see us drunk, dishonest, unfaithful, even lazy…
How to out-design the Corruption program
My first personal encounter with Corruption was in 1986. I was on my way from inspecting the reinforcement of a construction, and as would happen sometimes, the Contractor had come to collect me and now we were on my way back. I already had done the inspection but still the gentleman felt he needed to reward me. He had an envelope of what today would not seem much, but it was equivalent with half of my salary: Kshs 5,000!! No reward for guessing how much I was earning… “You can buy yourself something, just as a sign of our appreciation”. I was 23years old and just 1 year out of College!! That guy must have thought he had met someone from the moon, because I thanked and declined. Our friendship did not end… in fact this man always showed me great affection.. But the idea that money should buy loyalty…
Then came the chasing approvals of drawings in City Hall. That is when I realized the value of friendship and respect. I spent many visits, and kept asking in the desk, and talking kindly to the attendants. Then one of them, surprised by my insistence and seeming naivety, once told me, come in I will take you to the head of the department. And as the case would be, someone was sitting on the drawings. The head of the department turned out to be such a good man… but everyone was milking the drawings before they got to him. From then on it was possible to work without bribes…
Some form of Ethical or Moral Engineering is necessary. Is it not possible to start making bribe free leagues? Where the professionals in the league decide to work with only those willing to sign up for corrupt free practice. Can we not flag those involved in corrupt deals by boycotting their businesses? Are there no fair-play contractors, who want clean business?
To believe in something, you must be ready to put your life on line for it… lose business or deals… Surely there are people out there, PSs, Heads of department, CEOs who think like us!! Somehow the detoxification of the pool must start closer home, in my little area. In making firm and radical decisions.
Two years ago I saw the tender awarding of the road repair tenders in one of the counties. Pathetic “scramble for the spade”, all became Engineers, Contractors, Consultants, Architects in order to bid for the job.
Symptom of collapsing buildings.
The collapsing buildings are a symptom of moral decay, of a social moral collapse. Something has given way! The first culprit is the foundations. But maybe we also have slept on the job relying on “rule of thumb” and ignored clear indicators. The soil quality tests, The quality of Cement, The time needed to Cure, supervision of workers, and of course the Corrosion of corruption: not 6 but 8 storeys. Oh its okay, we have done this for ages…
Reading through some engineering commentary the collapse of buildings was attributed to 5 factors:
- The foundations are too weak
Adequate foundations can be costly.
- The building materials aren’t strong enough
Materials that just aren’t strong enough to withhold the load are used.
- Workers make mistakes
Even when workers are given the right materials to make the concrete, they mix them incorrectly due to poor supervision.
- The load is heavier than expected
Too much load. No control on loading.
- The strength isn’t tested
At all points of construction the strength of the building should be tested, building collapses when the load is beyond the strength of the building.
We have serious ethical-environmental challenges of the current age. The soil is not firm any more. The current age is about personal gain… Right and wrong, professional ethics is not a consideration any more. And so no one makes the efforts of reassuring whether the project, or family plan, or education of a child, is anchored on a firm ground of moral discernment and sense of service. Foundations need to hit rock.
The strength elements of structures are normally not very attractive of themselves: beams and columns. So too, at times Ethical elements and calls are not naturally comfortable… But they are necessary to uphold the person, the society and then bring about the beauty. Environment rewards softness, where there is no demand. We need to reverse reward model!
The social pressures from media and other influencing inflows are a tremendous load on the moral demands. The Level of pollution is rather high. General pressure of corruption, osmotic pressure, is very high… system overload. Increase convinced Engineers and reverse osmotic pressure.
Blackouts and electric fires are symptoms of short cuts, short circuits… For us it is clear Short cuts are Short Circuits, you pay for them sooner or later.
Monitoring of the knowledge of our juniors and of our families. Constant check of what they hold as valuable.
The dams have let out the water. Control the floodgates through Restrain and temperance.
In fact, Corruption’s biggest supermarket is the engineering projects. Seal the product.
The real underlying ill is individualism, the cult to privacy. Instead we must think of social transparency and demand it in our institution.
The Challenge: Ethical redesigning
What is my proposal and challenge to this noble body of Engineers, and Intellectual elite of our country?
I think it is possible to start restoring the Ethical sense of our Nation. I think we have a role and the key to steer this process. But what I wish to stir is the Will to make the sacrifices necessary!
Good Engineering starts with data analysis, and depth. That is why we spent so much time in labs. We need to know what is going on around us. We can’t wish it away, by remaining boxed in our field of specialty. We must delve into the human data and stats, into the analysis of the realities of society. Spend some time assessing these young millennial engineers so as to know how the new generation thinks and acts; reading widely outside our scope, on matters that determine human and social trends.
Need for Instructional scaffolding. Remastering of Ethical Script.
Organize Professional Ethics forums:
Principals of Ethics and Social concern
Family Ethics as base for Professional Ethics
The Value of Truth and Honesty
Parenting with values: Demand versus Bribes
Billing and Fees or charges
Non compromised Standards
New tactics of Corruption
Monitoring and Moderating bodies
Fair play and Mutual Respect.
Basics of Morals in our families. Become family people. Be there with your children of whatever age, and design family interaction time. Get in charge. Prop them… and Religion is a real major contributor here. A moral not underpinned by a Religious conviction, has very little consistency. Yes, we may be shocked when we hear maybe 20 % of our daughters in university have had an abortion! Dont wish it away, if you are not in control, the hacker is.
Constructive socialization. Avoid Culture of make believe, virtual culture. What is vulgarly referred to as Slay Queen or Slay King culture, or for those who truly have money, Bling “Bling” culture. This monster feeds on our pride and desire to show off: The wedding of my daughter must be the loudest, we Make trips to Hawaii, Dubai, Singapore… but no component of values, all material show off! We must regain the Simple culture of socialization. What happened to the inter-family visits?
Talk about unprofessional conduct, and get truly Ethically impeccable people representing us and getting involved in the tendering and determination processes. We Must flag unethical practices.
Truth: this is one thing we must regain. Not compromising on truth of matters. Cover-ups of professional malpractices, if we decided not to have a price, some things would change.
We are the CEOs of many institutions. We need to invest in the knowledge of how and what to promote strategically.
Reconstruct the Main Pillars of Ethics:
TRUTH: Trustworthiness – Honest in conduct (not stealing or cheating), Integrity, Reliability(promise-keeping) and Loyalty.
SERVICE: Respect – Civility (courtesy and decency), Autonomy and Tolerance.
DILIGENCE/HONOR: Responsibility – Accountability, Pursuit of excellence (diligence and perseverance) and Self-restraint.
JUSTICE: Fairness – Impartiality and Equity.
SOBRIETY: To know to say enough, enough for me at all levels.
Ladies and Gentlemen, my fellow Engineers, I hope I have provoked you sufficiently, to activate you in this battle for the soul of our Nation. Engineers have done great things for this country, I think my hope is not misplaced, that they too can reengineer the recovery of Ethics and Morals in our society.
May God bless you