Brian A. Barsky
Photo by François Pesant
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    Faculty Affiliations:
    Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS)
    Vision Science
    Berkeley Institute of Design (BID)
    Berkeley Center for New Media (BCNM)
    Arts Research Center (ARC)
    Berkeley Canadian Studies Program

Vision Correcting Display and Assistive Technology for Cursor Control


Boeing 737 MAX: Money, Machines, and Morals in Conflict

ENGIN/E24 Freshman Seminar Description
Class website project Fall 2019
Class website project Fall 2020
Class website project Fall 2021
Class website project Fall 2022

This seminar explores the ethical issues of corporate behavior and lack of government oversight leading to crashes of the newest commercial passenger airplane. The Boeing 737 MAX aircraft was grounded worldwide after two fatal crashes with similar characteristics within five months of each other. The FAA ungrounded it in November 2020, despite many lingering safety concerns, and it is still prohibited from flying in the airspace in some countries. In both incidents, pilots could not control the aircraft shortly after takeoff resulting in tragic crashes with no survivors. Due to concerns about financial losses, there was pressure to resume the use of the 737 MAX for commercial passenger flight as soon as possible notwithstanding continued safety concerns. Examination of the many factors that led to these disastrous consequences illuminates disquieting ethical issues of corporate behavior and lack of government oversight. There is a complex web of concerns involved. At the heart is a computer software that controls the aircraft (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS) which was a key element in the crashes. This seminar will require students to research and present some of the issues involved in this timely matter. Possible topics to be discussed include physics of flight, aeronautics, avionics, aircraft design, engineering ethics and the social responsibility of engineers, corporate interest and business ethics, the role of responsible government, issues of increased reliance on complex software replacing humans, etc.

  • ACM Distinguished Speaker
  • UC Berkeley Presidential Chair Fellow
  • Warren and Marjorie Minner Faculty Fellow in Engineering Ethics and Professional/Social Responsibility
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry
  • William Evans Fellow
  • Fulbright Scholar
  • National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Awardee
  • IBM Faculty Development Awardee
  • Biographical Sketch

    Official mailing address:
    University of California, Berkeley
    EECS Computer Science Division
    387 Soda Hall #1776
    Berkeley, CA 94720-1776

    Contact information:
    E-mail: barsky at berkeley dot edu
    Telephone: +1 (510) 642-9838
    Telephone: +1 (510) OH-BYTE-8

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    Longitude: 122° 22' West

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