An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.
– Benjamin Franklin
Society, Engineering, and Ethics is inspired by the life and work of Benjamin Franklin, engineer, ethicist, and entrepreneur. Son of Boston, Franklin embodied the American ideal of the homo universalis. Using his broad and deep knowledge of science, politics, and ethics, Franklin introduced engineering into our young country together with the virtues necessary for engineering to prosper. He can be considered America’s Founding Engineer. For Franklin, as for his teacher, Francis Bacon, two centuries before, genuine understanding requires knowledge of the ethical and the political no less than the scientific.
The activity of engineering has been, from its beginning, only one element in the broader project of advancing human well-being. Be it chemicals and materials, computers, edifices, transportation, medicine, and even business and economics, engineers aim to create value for humanity by solving problems, and in solving them, engineers necessarily draw upon an implicit view of what will be beneficial. As such, the proper application of a truly thoughtful engineering presumes a comprehensive reflection not only on nature and how it can be manipulated, but also on the human good.
SEE offers students an opportunity to consider thoughtfully and in a sustained manner how engineering is part of the human good. The approach is a careful consideration of the ethical, philosophical, political, and historical, all within the context of engineering. The goal is to understand engineering as it fits into the whole.
SEE offers courses, events, and a flexible engineering concentration. While our courses are all offered through Engineering course numbers, we welcome all students into our courses and events (space permitting). Our events, in particular, make a unique contribution to education, exposing students to successful and interesting entrepreneurs and scholars who motivate the engineering leaders of tomorrow to impact the world in the greatest way possible.
SEE is a new kind of incubator at MIT, drawing together women and men whose capacity for invention and design will generate a new kind of entrepreneurship. It treats without diffidence the tension in questions of material progress and social improvement, technique and ethics, freedom and justice, as well as considering their significance for deeper questions of human advancement and self-knowledge. In doing so, it seeks to foster engineers who may be worthy successors of Benjamin Franklin.