benefit of society. As in the past, engineers will exploit new science to develop technologies that benefit humankind, and in others they will create new technologies de novo that demand new science to fully understand them. The importance of technology continues to grow in society as new developments are commercialized and implemented.
The “biotechnology revolution” scenario speaks to a specific area of science and engineering that holds great potential but considers a perspective where political and societal implications could intervene in its use. In this version of the future, issues that impact technological change beyond the scope of engineering become significant, as seen in the current debate over the use of transgenic foods. While the role of engineering is still of prime importance, the impact of societal attitudes and politics reminds us that the ultimate use of a new technology and the pace of its adoption are not always a simple matter.
The “natural world” scenario recognizes that events originating beyond man’s control, such as natural disasters, can still be a determinate in the future. While in this case the role of future engineers and new technologies will be important to speeding a recovery from a disastrous event, it also can help in improving our ability to predict risk and adapt systems to prepare for the possibilities to minimize impact. For example, there is the likely possibility that computational power will improve such that accurate long-range weather predictions will be possible for relatively small geographic areas. This will allow defensive designs to be developed and customized for local conditions.
The final scenario examines the influence of global changes, as these can impact the future through conflict or, more broadly, through globalization. Engineering is particularly sensitive to such issues because it speaks through an international language of mathematics, science, and technology. Today’s environment, with issues related to terrorism and job outsourcing, illustrates why this scenario is useful to consider in planning for the future.
The body of the report begins in Chapter 1 with a review designed to set the stage for likely future technological changes and challenges that will impact the world and the engineering profession. Dramatic expansion of knowledge is expected that will offer exciting opportunities for engineering to develop new technologies to address the problems faced by society. The impact will be seen in medical breakthroughs, new energy devices, materials with characteristics not available today, remarkable light sources, and next-generation computers and tele-