Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Of interest to engineers

The subject of responsibility and professional ethics is a hot topic in business. It is also a key and sometimes under-appreciated aspect of engineering. A great case study in engineering ethics can be found in Joe Morgenstern's 1995 New Yorker article "The Fifty-Nine Story Crisis." Yes, engineers have responsibilities to make things right.

On the topic of engineering, I am continually impressed with the engineering ingenuity involved with mechanical watches. I wish every software developer thought like a watch designer: efficiency, size, and reliability are permanent constraints on feature development. For some wonderful examples of modern engineering, see two (commercial) overviews of recent work done by Jaeger LeCoultre: the ingenious gyrotourbillon and the revolutionary master compressor LAB.

1 comment:

Richard Friedman said...


Like the article, great to see examples of how things resolve. But also notice the 'spin' to the press. Right or wrong? The general distrust to the press shows the respect Citi had for them, and what if the 'story' broke?

Also notice the 'fate' in this story, kind of strange.
a. student calls out the blue forcing him to rethink something
b. Citi not attacking with lawyers up front (kind of rare)
c. the press outage
d. no leak to the press (they didn't have blogs yet ;)

I think there are two other points from the story more prominent than the ethical choice
a. the process of dealing with the issue. Line up your ducks, get the facts, work with your team, then communicate.
b. passion, LeMessurier is an extremely passionate person and his continued dedication enabled him to be dedicated to dig into the problem