Board Approves Revisions to the IEEE Code of Ethics

Changes reflect technological advancements

17 January 2018

The IEEE Board of Directors at its 26 November meeting unanimously approved a set of revisions to the IEEE Code of Ethics. The revisions were proposed by the IEEE ad hoc committee on ethics programs. The Board acted pursuant to a set of resolutions it approved at its 18 June meeting in accordance with Section 7.8 of the IEEE Policies.

The following is the approved IEEE Code of Ethics:

“We, the members of the IEEE, in recognition of the importance of our technologies in affecting the quality of life throughout the world, and in accepting a personal obligation to our profession, its members, and the communities we serve, do hereby commit ourselves to the highest ethical and professional conduct and agree:

  1. to hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public, to strive to comply with ethical design and sustainable development practices, and to disclose promptly factors that might endanger the public or the environment;
  2. to avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest whenever possible, and to disclose them to affected parties when they do exist;
  3. to be honest and realistic in stating claims or estimates based on available data;
  4. to reject bribery in all its forms;
  5. to improve the understanding by individuals and society of the capabilities and societal implications of conventional and emerging technologies, including intelligent systems;
  6. to maintain and improve our technical competence and to undertake technological tasks for others only if qualified by training or experience, or after full disclosure of pertinent limitations;
  7. to seek, accept, and offer honest criticism of technical work, to acknowledge and correct errors, and to credit properly the contributions of others;
  8. to treat fairly all persons and to not engage in acts of discrimination based on race, religion, gender, disability, age, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression;
  9. to avoid injuring others, their property, reputation, or employment by false or malicious action;
  10. to assist colleagues and coworkers in their professional development and to support them in following this code of ethics.”

BACKGROUND

A 2016 report from a White House symposium on artificial intelligence recommended that IEEE and other associations update their codes of ethics to address developments in AI. After much discussion, the IEEE ad hoc committee on ethics programs proposed edits to Canons 1 and 5 of the IEEE Code of Ethics and submitted them to the IEEE Board of Directors. In crafting the revisions, the committee considered feedback from all major IEEE boards and from IEEE members.

“The changes adopted by the Board are important because they prepare IEEE members for ethical challenges raised by the next generation of technology,” says Greg Adamson, ad hoc committee chair. “They draw attention to ethical design and sustainable development practices, and to societal implications of technology, and specifically call out intelligent systems. In addition, we have strengthened our ethical commitment, holding paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public. This is in line with several other technical professional codes of ethics.”

The ad hoc committee has identified the need to develop training and support for IEEE members in relation to ethics, Adamson says, and it has proposed options for this year.

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