Asee peer logo

Monetizing Life May Be the Ethical Thing to Do

Download Paper |


2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Industrial Engineering Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Industrial Engineering

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Alejandro Salado Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Dr. Alejandro Salado is an assistant professor of systems engineering with the Grado Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech. His research focuses on unveiling the scientific foundations of systems engineering and using them to improve systems engineering practice. Before joining academia, Alejandro spent over ten years as a systems engineer in the space industry. He is a recipient of the Fabrycky-Blanchard Award for Systems Engineering Research and the Fulbright International Science and Technology Award. Dr. Salado holds a BSc/MSc in electrical engineering from Polytechnic University of Valencia, an MSc in project management and a MSc in electronics engineering from Polytechnic University of Catalonia, the SpaceTech MEng in space systems engineering from Delft University of Technology, and a PhD in systems engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology. He is a member of INCOSE and a senior member of IEEE and IIE.

visit author page


Andrew Katz Purdue University, West Lafayette

visit author page

Andrew Katz is a doctoral candidate in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. He is working as a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow with a focus on engineering ethics education. He holds a B.S. in chemical engineering from Tulane University and M.Eng. in environmental engineering from Texas A&M University. Prior to beginning his graduate studies in engineering education he taught physics at a high school in Dallas, TX.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Engineering endeavors require professional engineers to face and resolve myriad ethical conflicts. Several of those conflicts are related to monetization of life. The design and definition of safety features in products and the definition of reliability targets for an airplane are just a few examples of engineering situations in which monetizing life is necessary. However, placing a monetary value on life can feel uneasy to many people. It is almost as if linking dollars with life and death is “bad,” and should not even be discussed. Yet, because impossibility of failure and undefeatable safety cannot be achieved, monetizing life is an unavoidable activity in contemporary engineering work. In fact, contrary to the visceral reaction that some people have, we will show in this paper that monetizing life is the only ethical thing to do in engineering projects and what this may mean for engineering education. In this paper, we will present students’ solutions to engineering assignments that lead to ethical dilemmas in an industrial engineering class at the senior level. These student responses display a general unpreparedness to handle such conflicts effectively or with any ideological consistency. In addition, the results suggest that students’ lack of techniques and tools to approach these problems may have a more detrimental consequence. Specifically, engineering students with strong ethical principles end up making decisions that are completely misaligned and contradictory with their ethical preferences. In fact, many students are not even aware of the unethical consequences their decisions have; they actually think that they have a high ethical standard yet fail to recognize the counterintuitive implications of the position they support on the presumed moral high ground. Finally, we will show how using engineering modeling and monetization of life results in properly tackling the ethical conflict and enable engineering students to align their decisions with their ethical preferences.

Salado, A., & Katz, A. (2019, June), Monetizing Life May Be the Ethical Thing to Do Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33119

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2019 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015