Social Failure & 21st Century Design

By Mairead Matthews | email

As technologies' social impacts grow, applied ethics are becoming increasingly crucial to tech design, development, and implementation. Considering potential "social failures" can help us benefit from innovations while avoiding potential pitfalls.

With both an engineering and ethics background, Canada Research Chair Jason Millar is uniquely positioned to perform cutting-edge research in this area. Studying the various ways designers and engineers tend to overlook the ethical and social considerations of their work, Millar has found ethical and social analysis crucial to realizing the benefit of many new innovations like machine learning algorithms, driverless cars, and robots.

Baked into the practice of engineering is an in-depth understanding of the various ways materials and mechanical systems in technology fail: corrosion, erosion, fatigue, and overload, just to name a few. In engineering, these breakdowns are referred to as failure modes, generally classified as either material or mechanical in nature. From this body of knowledge, engineers have been able to develop an effective list of tools, codes, standards, risk assessments, and other best practices aimed at preventing future material or mechanical failures in engineering and design.


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