In May 2013, wife and husband team Shanshan Du and Yu Qin were convicted of taking confidential General Motors information about hybrid vehicles and trying to pass it to competitors in China. Du, a former GM engineer, was sentenced to a year and a day in prison, and her husband was sentenced to three years for conspiring to sell trade secrets. Prosecutors said that GM estimated that the value of the stolen documents exceeded $40 million. (Source: Google Images/ Salon.com)
How can you have a list of notable criminal engineers and miss out Hans Reiser? The guy murdered his wife, and insisted on conducting his own defence in his trial - despite the judge begging him to let his lawyer do the job. The jury hated him so much they would probably have convicted him even if he hadn't been guilty. Throughout the trial, he claimed he was innocent, and refused the prosecution's offer of a reduced sentence for a guilty plea and telling them where the body was. When the judgement fell, his first words were to ask if the bargin was still valid!
I have to agree with you David Ashton. I have always maintained that "All is not logical; should not be; could not be; man's mind would not allow it!" But I still can have hope that engineers are a bit more logical in their behavior than many other professionals (and/or those w/o a profession).
Would we consider an engineer working on weapons of mass destruction to be, at least morally, a criminal? How about one who builds electric shocking machines to tort... (excuse me) apply "enhanced interrogation" to prisoners?
BTW, Bernie Goetz now runs a surplus/used electronic test equipment company which he calls Vigilante Electronics.
What is the common link? Analyses that I have seen argue that most of the serial murder type of folks are really loners whose lack of interaction don't provide the checks and measures that most normal folk experience. A person lost in his own world, fed via media a diet of violence and sexual perversity while not experiencing the "normalcy" most of us do can eventually justify pretty much anything that comes into their mind. Garbage in, garbage out--true for even the most sophisticated computers! So do engineers tend to be more likely to be loners? I'd say, probably.
I would say that engineers have the technical skills and knowledge to theoretically be able to develop more sophisticated methods of wreaking havoc, but it's not at all clear to me that they have a propensity to commit bad deeds that's any greater than the general population. And @Rich is right, some of the most heinous serial killers got away with it because of their charm and ability to convince people to trust them.
I'm not sure how much of a role a lack of social skills would play in this. Certainly it seems to be a common trait among individuals responsible for mass shootings etc., but on the other hand, con artists and the like typically have what would be considered great "social skills."
Others above say there will be the same percentage of "bad" engineers as in other groups. I'd argue against that though I have nothing to back this up. Most other professions you can BS your way through. But you can't BS the laws of physics, so engineers as a group tend to be good people, I think, what I'd call straight and solid types. The rogues above are the exception I would say.
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