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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century 1 Technological Context of Engineering Practice TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE Engineering is a profoundly creative process. A most elegant description is that engineering is about design under constraint. The engineer designs devices, components, subsystems, and systems and, to create a successful design, in the sense that it leads directly or indirectly to an improvement in our quality of life, must work within the constraints provided by technical, economic, business, political, social, and ethical issues. Technology is the outcome of engineering; it is rare that science translates directly to technology, just as it is not true that engineering is just applied science. Historically, technological advances, such as the airplane, steam engine, and internal combustion engine, have occurred before the underlying science was developed to explain how they work. Yet, of course, when such explanations were forthcoming, they helped drive refinements that made the technology more valuable still. Technological innovations occur when a need arises or an opportunity presents itself. They occur as a result of private initiative or government intervention. Most important for this study is that they are occurring at an astonishing pace, especially those in information and communications technology, which are most apparent to the public, and this has important implications for engineering practice and engineering education in the future. Totally unexpected scientific findings
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century can suggest new technologies as well, and hence any discussion of the future of engineering must ponder scientific breakthroughs that might occur along the way. In his groundbreaking book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn (1970) helped us see that science advances through two quite different dynamics. Ordinary science fills in the details of a landscape that is largely known. Every once in a while the problems of the contemporary world view become so unworkable that reinventing the map is needed. For example, the recognition that continents moved slowly over the surface of the earth solved many problems that a model of a static planet made unsolvable. This recognition led to a reconceptualization and new perception of reality. One of the questions our view of the world answers is how things are connected and put together. The familiar model is a building constructed of diverse components assembled in a fixed pattern. The other familiar model is a fluid, like a river, with a rapidly changing shape formed by local conditions. An emerging model of order is the network. In a universe of superstrings and soft boundaries for molecules, network-like connections among things may provide a useful new ordering principle. Networks have unique properties, such as self-organization, and sometimes huge multiplier effects of many connecting to many. Networks also have vulnerabilities, as demonstrated by the blackout in the northeastern United States in August 2003. We are also seeing a new relationship between the macroscopic world we inhabit every day and the microscopic world at a molecular, atomic, and even subatomic level. Once we could describe events in our observable world by fairly simple mathematical rules, say the trajectory of a baseball hit out of a baseball park, but the very small was imprecise, uncertain, and statistical. Now new tools and mathematics enable us to enjoy a similar level of precision, certainty, and uniqueness even at the smallest imaginable scales. We have, for example, recently discovered how to encode data in the spin of an electron inside an atom—in other words, subatomic data storage (Awschalom et al., 2002). Both the exquisite sensitivity of biological function to the precise sequencing of base pairs of DNA and the mathematics of chaos lead to a view that small actions matter in giving form to things and order to events. What we do actually matters to history. The future really is the result of choices made today. It is not merely the random concatenation of mechanically predetermined events or the statistical result of acci-
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century dents along the way. And while we are alike in many ways that define our common humanity, the path dependence of complex systems tells us that each of us is also unique. In the old world view it took a builder to make a machine. Someone outside with a plan and the ability to assemble the parts is needed to get to a new machine. In the new world view, self-replication is a new model of change. In biology, self-replication is the norm, whether by simple mechanisms like cell division or more complex sexual methods. Now in nanotechnology and potentially in very smart computer systems, we are beginning to contemplate self-replication in nonorganic systems, and, indeed, runaway self-replication is seen as a threat by some. The universe, as now understood, is vastly different than both the one Newton described and the one we “knew” as little as 50 years ago. Soon our world view may be distinct from that of Einstein and Bohr. Yet in this dynamic and confusing milieu, it is not clear which technical trends will move forward in a predictable fashion and which will burst forward as a revolution, forcing us to reconceptualize and reperceive our view of engineering. It is a daunting challenge for the engineering profession and engineering education to remain flexible enough to anticipate such changes or, if anticipation fails, to respond as rapidly as possible. Change is constant, but on an absolute basis our world has changed more in the past 100 years than in all those preceding. By the end of the 20th century, the developed world had become a healthier, safer, and more productive place; a place where engineering, through technology, had forged an irreversible imprint on our lives and our identity. The Swiss engineer Jurgen Mittelstrass once termed the present technology-dominated world as the “Leonardoworld,” to contrast with the time long past where human life was dominated by the natural world (Mittelstrass, 2001). There are many positive aspects of this new world—longer and healthier lives, improved work and living conditions, global communications, ease of transit, and access to art and culture—and this is true for the masses in the developed world instead of only a privileged few. Making it true for the masses in the developing world is one of the great moral and ethical challenges for society as a whole but for engineers in particular. Looking forward to further changes in science and technology, perhaps revolutionary changes, we are limited by our inability to see the future, but our imagination is reflected in the scenarios in Appendix A.
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century Turning to reality, though, the best we can do is look at recent and emergent advances, like those in biotechnology, nanotechnology, information and communications technology, materials science, and photonics to provide a possible template of the changes engineering will need to contend with in 2020. BREAKTHROUGH TECHNOLOGIES Biotechnology Exciting breakthroughs in our understanding of human physiology have been among the most captivating topics of public discussion over the past several decades. It is the potential to attack diseases and disorders at the cell and DNA levels that leads some to believe that diseases, as currently known, may be eradicated and that compensations for many of the limitations of the human body (e.g., those related to aging or hormonal changes) will be available. Advances in biotechnology have already significantly improved the quality of our lives, but even more dramatic breakthroughs are likely. Research in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine may lead to new technology that will allow our bodies to replace injured or diseased parts without invasive surgery, but rather by using the natural growth processes inherent in cells. Already used extensively to help burn victims grow replacement skin, it is possible that related developments will allow spinal cord injury victims to restore full mobility and feeling by reconnecting tissues and nerves. Linked with new developments in nanotechnology and microelectronic mechanical systems (MEMS), we may see the use of nanoscale robots, or nanobots, to repair tissue tears or clean clogged arteries. Nanobots might be used to target drugs that can destroy cancers or change cell structures to combat genetically inherited diseases. Bioinformatics will likely take advantage of improved computing capabilities that use the human genome database to allow drugs to be customized for each individual. A drug that might be fatal for one person could be well suited for curing another’s disease, depending on their specific genetic makeup. The intersection of medical knowledge and engineering has spawned new biomedical engineering research and curricula that have helped create or refine products such as pacemakers, artificial organs,
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century prosthetic devices, laser eye surgery, an array of sophisticated imaging systems, and fiber-optic-assisted noninvasive surgical techniques. In the future, ongoing developments will expand beyond the application of medical advances toward tighter connections between technology and the human experience. For example, embedded devices that aid communication or devices that monitor organ functions and provide meaningful information to the user will be available. New-century products will also be exquisitely tailored to match the physical dimensions and capabilities of the user. Bio-inspired computer researchers are already investigating virus protection architectures that mimic the human viral defense system, and pattern recognition researchers are developing algorithms that mimic the visioning processes observed in humans and other species (National Research Council, 2001). Ergonomic design and an eye on other physical and mental health influences of engineered products will be an underlying theme across all engineering disciplines. There are already engineers engaged in the emerging fields of tissue engineering, drug delivery engineering, bio-inspired computing, and a range of other biotechnological pursuits. As research activities mature, efforts to transition the new knowledge from laboratory products into marketable products will increase and so too will the involvement of engineers. Products will increasingly support commoditized biosystems, ranging from artificial organs and implantable devices to other “sustaining systems.” Where technology and life converge, considerations of safety and reliability become paramount. There will be new requirements for engineers to acquire basic knowledge about biological systems and to pay increased attention to areas such as fault-tolerant designs to mitigate liability concerns. The design of biotech products will require knowledge that crosses multiple disciplines (e.g., materials development, computing applications, automated biological processes) in a compelling example of the value of interdisciplinary engineering. Engineering will also wrestle with problems that today are rooted in biology and chemistry on the microscale. Ongoing concerns about chemical and biological weapons will demand that engineers of all kinds have more than a passing knowledge of these subjects. Future civil engineers (or at least those engineers with the requisite knowledge however designated in 2020) will know about transport characteristics of biological and chemical agents and their diffusivity in air and water supplies. Mechanical engineers will devise pumps and filters that are able to
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century deal with a wide variety of airborne and waterborne chemical or biological agents. Electrical engineers will design sensing and detection instruments capable of providing early warning of the presence of such agents. Nanotechnology “Nanoengineering” to create and manufacture structures and materials on a molecular level will continue as a focus for the next few generations of engineers. Nanoscience and nanoengineering draw on multiple fields, as reflected in applications in bioengineering (e.g., genetic and molecular engineering), materials science (composites and engineered materials), and electronics (quantum-scale optical and electrical structures). Nanostructures have been proposed as environmental cleaning agents, chemical detection agents, for the creation of biological (or artificial) organs, for the development of nanoelectronic mechanical systems (NEMS), and for the development of ultrafast, ultradense electrical and optical circuits. In a marriage of engineering and biology to create synthetic biology, efforts are proceeding to create a suite of fundamental tools and techniques to fabricate biological devices, analogous to those used to create microelectronic devices (Ball, 2001; National Research Council, 2003). The federal government has created the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative and in fiscal year 2004 will provide almost $1 billion in research and development funding (see Table 1). The grand challenges identified for this initiative illustrate the breadth of the potential of this new field. Materials Science and Photonics Even in traditional areas of engineering, like bridge and automotive design, civil and mechanical engineers will increasingly need to understand new materials that can be used in composites, atomic-scale machines, and molecular-based nanostructures. Smart materials and structures, which have the capability of sensing and responding, for example, to displacements caused by earthquakes and explosions, will be used increasingly. If the present petroleum economy is replaced by a hydrogen economy, fuel cells will replace the internal combustion engine and batteries as power sources, and a general understanding of fuel-cell-
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century TABLE 1 Challenges Identified for the National Nanotechnology Initiative Time Frame Strategic Challenge Nano-Now Pigments in paints Cutting tools and wear resistant coatings Pharmaceuticals and drugs Nanoscale particles and thin films in electronic devices Jewelry, optical, and semiconductor wafer polishing Nano-2007 Biosensors, transducers, and detectors Functional designer fluids Propellants, nozzles, and valves Flame retardant additives Drug delivery, biomagnetic separation, and wound healing Nano-2012 Nano-optical, nanoelectronics, and nanopower sources High-end flexible displays Nano-bio materials as artificial organs NEMS-based devices Faster switches and ultra-sensitive sensors SOURCE: Adapted from National Research Council (2002). powered engines, fuel-cell chemistry, and the materials of fuel cells will be needed. Moreover, as smart materials are used in advanced products, material properties based on mechanical, optical, and electromagnetic interactions become core knowledge topics that support effective engineering practice. As the physical sizes of optical sources decrease while their power and reliability continue to increase, photonics-based technologies will become more significant in engineered products and systems. Fiber optics communications, precision manufacturing applications (e.g., precision cutting, visioning, sensing), and applications employing free space line-of-sight optical links, laser guidance, and optical sensing and monitoring will continue to advance (Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology, 2003; Suhir, 2000). Information and Communications Technology To appreciate the potential of information technology, one has only to consider the remarkable changes that have taken place in U.S. society
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century in the past few decades. Today young adults cannot imagine life without computers, video conferencing, mobile phones, copiers, and the Internet, and most of us who are old enough to have lived without them appreciate them even more. What will happen in the foreseeable future? Today a 1-gigabit hard drive ships in a package 1 × 1 × 1/8 inches; soon that will be a 10-gigabit drive, and computers small enough to fit into trouser pockets will be able to contain information that would fill a modern library (Feldman, 2001). The speed and computing power of future desktop machines and software will enable design and simulation capabilities that will make the routine activities of contemporary engineers obsolete, thus freeing them for ever more creative tasks. The world will be networked with broadband communications, allowing huge volumes of information to be transmitted at high data rates for real-time collaboration between engineering design centers anywhere, reshaping our perceptions of connectedness, location, and access. As early as the 1960s, the Advanced Research Project Agency research community began to imagine a world where networks of computer workstations could connect to each other, sharing data, working in parallel on common problems, and advancing computing power to new heights (Brand, 1972; Gates, 1996; Goldberg, 1988). In the developed world, because of the Internet, this is the world we live in today. Everything will, in some sense, be “smart”; that is, every product, every service, and every bit of infrastructure will be attuned to the needs of the humans it serves and will adapt its behavior to those needs. For engineering the imperative to accommodate connectivity establishes an integral role for core competencies related to electronics, electromagnetics, photonics, and the underlying discrete as well as continuous mathematics. Core competencies in materials and the cultivation of skills related to the use of information technology for communications purposes are also indicated. Engineers and engineering will seek to optimize the benefits derived from a unified appreciation of the physical, psychological, and emotional interactions between information technology and humans. As engineers seek to create products to aid physical and other activities, the strong research base in physiology, ergonomics, and human interactions with computers will expand to include cognition, the processing of information, and physiological responses to electrical, mechanical, and optical stimulation. Given the expected role of computers in the future, it is essential that engineers of all disciplines have a deep working knowledge of the
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century fundamentals of digital systems as well as fluency in using contemporary computer systems and tools. Many, if not all, engineering systems in the future will be digital systems. Advances in computing and simulation, coupled with technologies that mimic rudimentary attributes in analysis, may radically redefine common practices in engineering. There will be growth in areas of simulation and modeling around the creation of new engineering “structures.” Computer-based design-build engineering, such as was done with the Boeing 777 and is commonly done in civil engineering, will become the norm for most product designs, accelerating the creation of complex structures for which multiple subsystems combine to form a final product. The Information Explosion Surrounding all these technologies is the growth of data and knowledge at an exponential rate. A few hundred years ago it was conceivable for a person to be conversant about much of the science, mathematics, medicine, music, and art of the day. Today, in an age of specialization, an individual’s area of expertise continues to diminish in relation to the total body of technical knowledge. The health care field offers a daunting example of the future; there will be more new knowledge created in the next few years than in all previous history. Beginning in the early 1990s, data management requirements in life sciences-based engineering activities began to outpace Moore’s law (see Figure 1). These data will drive and be driven by the biotechnology revolution. Memory access rates and manipulation of databases will represent an ongoing challenge to efficiently and effectively mine these data. In the past, engineering responded to the explosion in knowledge by continually developing and spawning new areas of focus in the various engineering disciplines. As more of these areas arise, the depth of individual knowledge increases, but the breadth can dramatically decrease. This poses a challenge to an engineering future where interdisciplinarity will likely be critical to the solution of complex problems. Logistics The combination of wireless connectivity, handheld computers, and inventory tracking and database software has modernized logistics.
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century FIGURE 1 Life sciences data management requirements. Advanced Imaging: Optimistic projections assuming 5 × 107 accessible population with each person requiring 82 × 109 bytes by 2010–2012. This is primarily based on an assumption that advanced 3D/4D imaging capabilities hold ~80% of medical storage. Base Estimate: Assumes clinical and biomedical use will be at least 30% of 2010 total world storage, conservatively set at 100 petabytes. Downplays advanced imaging capabilities. SOURCE: Copyright International Business Machines Corporation, 2004. Companies in the transportation sector were the first to embrace logistics as a tool to help organize activities while improving productivity. Manufacturing and retail companies as diverse as Ford, Boeing, Intel, and Wal-Mart are heavily dependent on logistics to link together their far-flung networks of suppliers and manufacturing units. Especially in the past decade, outsourcing and “just-in-time” manufacturing have turned logistics into a tightly balanced ballet that allows companies to work across continents to develop products and deliver them at the right time and place around the world. Market success or failure hangs in the balance.
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century Logistics is being taught in an increasing number of engineering curricula and is steadily becoming a more sophisticated field. It has led to the creation of new jobs for engineers in industries and companies that traditionally did not employ them. The challenge of moving goods and services more efficiently will likely engage engineering up to and through 2020. TECHNOLOGICAL CHALLENGES The engineer of 2020 will need to be conversant with and embrace a whole realm of new technologies, but some old problems are not going to go away. They will demand new attention and, perhaps, new technologies. In some cases their continuing neglect will move them from problems to crises. Physical Infrastructures in Urban Settings Previous approaches to urban development reflected attention to human services and private-sector requirements without a sufficient focus on environmental impact and sustainability. The result is that many large cities today are victims of pollution, traffic and transportation infrastructure concerns, decreasing greenery, poor biodiversity, and disparate educational services. In general, though, the United States has arguably had the best physical infrastructure in the developed world. The concern is that these infrastructures are in serious decline, and hence aging water treatment, waste disposal, transportation, and energy facilities are among the top concerns for public officials and citizens alike. In 2003 the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) issued an update to its 2001 report card on America’s aging infrastructure. Each category in the ASCE reports was evaluated on the basis of condition and performance, capacity versus need, and funding versus need. The assessments do not include security enhancements as no authoritative data on these upgrades are available. The 2003 report gives America an overall grade of D+ on its physical infrastructure and estimates that $1.6 trillion would be needed to restore it over the five-year period beginning in 2004 (see Table 2). The 2001 report card (see Table 3) provides additional detail. The longer these investments are pushed into the future, the more likely the state of deteriorating infrastructures will reach crisis proportions. Engi-
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century TABLE 2 America’s Aging Infrastructure, 2003 Area Grade Trend (since 2001) Roads D+ ↓ Bridges C ↔ Transit C– ↓ Aviation D ↔ Schools D– ↔ Drinking Water D ↓ Wastewater D ↓ Dams D ↓ Solid waste C+ ↔ Hazardous waste D+ ↔ Navigable waterways D+ ↓ Energy D+ ↓ America’s Infrastructure GPA D+ • Total Investment $1.6 Trillion (estimated five-year need) SOURCE: Adapted from American Society of Civil Engineers (2003). neering is ideally positioned to help address these issues given the will of public leaders and the general public to make the required investments. The arrows in the rightmost column of Table 2 indicate how the state of the infrastructure has changed since the 2001 report; horizontal arrows indicate no change, and an arrow pointing down indicates further degradation. Information and Communications Infrastructure Because it is of more recent vintage, the nation’s information and telecommunications infrastructure has not suffered nearly as much degradation due to the ravages of time, but vulnerabilities due to accidental or intentional events are well recognized and are a serious concern. Recent evidence has shown that malicious attacks (such as computer viruses and denial of service attacks), system overloads (as in the case of the disruptions in wireless phone service in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks), and natural disasters (such as hurricanes and earthquakes, which disrupt the electricity grid that underlies the information and communications infrastructure), can have a profound
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century TABLE 3 America’s Aging Infrastructure, 2001 Area Grade Note Roads D+ One-third of the nation’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, costing American drivers an estimated $5.8 billion per year. Bridges C As of 1998, 29 percent of the nation’s bridges were structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, an improvement from 31 percent in 1996. Transit C– Transit ridership has increased 15 percent since 1995. Capital spending must increase 41 percent just to maintain the system in its present condition. Aviation D Airport capacity has increased only 1 percent in the past 10 years, while air traffic increased 37 percent during that time. Congestion also jeopardizes safety—there were 429 runway incursions (“near misses”) reported in 2000, up 25 percent from 1999. Schools D– Due to either aging/outdated facilities or severe overcrowding, 75 percent of our nation’s school buildings are inadequate to meet the needs of schoolchildren. The average cost of capital investment needed is $3,800 per student, more than half the average cost to educate a student for one year. Since 1998 the total need has increased from $112 billion to $127 billion. Drinking Water D The nation’s 54,000 drinking water systems face an annual shortfall of $11 billion needed to replace facilities that are nearing the end of their useful life and to comply with federal water regulations. Wastewater D The nation’s 16,000 wastewater systems face enormous needs. Some sewer systems are 100 years old. Currently, there is a $12 billion annual shortfall in funding for infrastructure needs in this category. Energy D+ Since 1990, actual capacity has increased only about 7,000 megawatts (MW) per year, an annual shortfall of 30 percent. More than 10,000 MW of capacity will have to be added each year until 2008 to keep up with the 1.8 percent annual growth in demand. Hazardous Waste D+ Effective regulation and enforcement have largely halted the contamination of new sites. Aided by the best cleanup technology in the world, the rate of Superfund cleanup has quickened—though not enough to keep pace with the number of new sites listed as the backlog of potential sites is assessed. SOURCE: Adapted from American Society of Civil Engineers (2003).
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century impact on our national economy, our national security, our lifestyles, and our sense of personal security, if not our actual personal security (Computer Science Telecommunications Board, 2003). It falls to both the public and the private sectors to develop strategies and take actions to continually update the infrastructure to keep pace with technological advances, to increase capacity to respond to the rapid growth in information and communications technology-related services, to develop and design systems with a global perspective, to work to increase security and reliability, and to consider issues of privacy (Crishna et al., 2000). These actions will clearly involve legal, regulatory, economic, business, and social considerations, but engineering innovation is and will remain a critical factor in the effort to operate, expand, devise upgrades to, and reduce the vulnerabilities of these systems. The Environment A number of natural resource and environmental concerns will frame our world’s challenges for the 21st century. For example, in 2020 the state of California will need the equivalent of 40 percent more electrical capacity, 40 percent more gasoline, and 20 percent more natural gas energy than was needed in the year 2000 (California Business, Transportation, and Housing Agency, 2001). Global per capita forest area is projected to fall to one-third of its 1990 value by 2020 (Forest and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1995), and most of this reduction will be due to population growth in tropical areas and shrinking forest area. Forty-eight countries containing a total of 2.8 billion people could face freshwater shortages by 2025 (Hinrichsen et al., 1997). The question of water is at the heart of a 600-page world water development report recently issued by the United Nations (2003). The report projects that within the next 20 years virtually every nation in the world will face some type of water supply problem. Water tables are falling in China, India, and the United States, which together produce half the world’s food. Presently it is estimated that more than a billion people have little access to clean drinking water and that 2 billion live in conditions of water scarcity. In their article Who Owns Water, Barlow and Clarke (2002) write: “Quite simply, unless we dramatically change our ways, between one-half and two-thirds of humanity will be living
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century with severe fresh water shortages within the next quarter century.” Water supplies will affect the future of the world’s economy and its stability. If we are to preserve our environment for future generations (see Chapter 2) we must develop and implement more ecologically sustainable practices as we seek to achieve economic prosperity. Sustainable practices must proceed apace in industrialized countries and developing countries alike. If sustainability is pursued only in industrialized countries, where the resources are available, they will remain islands in a sea of environmentally bereft developing countries. It is becoming increasingly apparent, though, that design criteria and standards suitable for industrialized countries must be adjusted for the local conditions in developed countries if sustainability projects hope to succeed. The engineer of 2020 will have to understand how to adapt solutions, in an ethical way, to the constraints of developing countries. The fossil fuel supply, global warming, depletion of the ozone layer, misdistribution of water use, and the loss of forests have been described by some as “extinction-level” crises (Hinrichsen and Robey, 2000). It is difficult to know how the flow of resources will vary over the next several decades, but it is certain that, along with conservation, technological innovation must be part of the solution to circumvent, or at least mitigate, these crises. Engineering practices must incorporate attention to sustainable technology, and engineers need to be educated to consider issues of sustainability in all aspects of design and manufacturing. As codified at a recent conference on sustainability, green engineering is the design, commercialization, and use of processes and products that are feasible and economical while minimizing the generation of pollution at the source and the risk to human health and the environment (National Science Foundation, 2003). The discipline embraces the concept that decisions to protect human health and the environment can have the greatest impact and cost effectiveness when applied early to the design and development phase of a process or product. Table 4 presents the nine guiding principles developed at the Green Engineering: Defining Principles Conference (National Science Foundation, 2003). The principles point to systems-based strategies and holistic approaches that embed social and cultural objectives into the traditional engineering focus on technical and economic viability.
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century TABLE 4 Guiding Principles in Green Engineering Engineer processes and products holistically, use systems analysis, and integrate environmental impact assessment tools. Conserve and improve natural ecosystems while protecting human health and well-being. Use life-cycle thinking in all engineering activities. Ensure that all material and energy inputs and outputs are as inherently safe and benign as possible. Minimize depletion of natural resources. Strive to prevent waste. Develop and apply engineering solutions while being cognizant of local geography, aspirations, and cultures. Create engineering solutions beyond current or dominant technologies; improve, innovate, and invent (technologies) to achieve sustainability. Actively engage communities and stakeholders in the development of engineering solutions. SOURCE: Adapted from National Science Foundation (2003). Technology for an Aging Population Engineering can be an agent for addressing the challenges of aging. New technologies are on the horizon that can help aging citizens maintain healthy, productive lifestyles well beyond conventional retirement age. One emerging area of study, assistive technology, has a central focus on creating technologies that accommodate people of all ages who are challenged by physical and other limitations. In an aging society, opportunities will grow in the area of assistive technology. The Center for Aging Services Technologies (2003) has identified several areas where future investment would significantly improve services to aging patients. These include technologies, such as monitors, sensors, robots, and smart housing, that would allow elder persons to maintain independent lifestyles and alleviate the burdens placed on care providers and government programs; operational technologies that would help service providers reduce labor costs or prevent medical errors; connective technologies that would help elderly patients communicate with caregivers, families, and medical resources; and telemedicine to provide basic or specialized services to patients in remote locations or to amplify their access to a broad range of medical services.
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century Assistive technology includes technologies in education, rehabilitation, and independent living to help, to change, or to train physically challenged citizens. People of all ages with physical, cognitive, and communication disorders, or a combination of disabilities, may benefit from the application of assistive technologies. www.katsnet.org IMPLICATIONS FOR ENGINEERING EDUCATION The Technology Explosion Since the late 19th century, when the major subdisciplines of engineering began to emerge, engineers have been aware that solutions to many societal problems lie at the interstices of subdisciplines. In 1960 the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense established Materials Research Centers (MRCs); later the National Science Foundation assumed operation of the MRC program and created Engineering Research Centers, both in recognition of the value of providing an environment where engineers and scientists of different backgrounds could join together to solve interdisciplinary problems. As valuable as such centers are, students are still largely assigned to and educated in a single department, and, as engineering disciplines have proliferated and clearly delineated specialties within those subdisciplines have evolved, providing a broad engineering education to students has become an enormous challenge. This challenge will only become more daunting as the information on new science and technology continues to explode and new and totally unanticipated technologies, requiring even more specialization, emerge in the future. Engineering education must avoid the cliché of teaching more and more about less and less, until it teaches everything about nothing. Addressing this problem may involve reconsideration of the basic structure of engineering departments and the infrastructure for evaluating the performance of professors as much as it does selecting the coursework students should be taught.
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century The Pace of Change Scientific and engineering knowledge doubles every 10 years (Wright, 1999). This geometric growth rate has been reflected in an accelerating rate of technology introduction and adoption. Product cycles continue to decrease, and each cycle delivers more functional and often less expensive versions of existing products, occasionally introduces entirely new “disruptive” technologies, and makes older technologies obsolete at an increasing rate. The comfortable notion that a person learns all that he or she needs to know in a four-year engineering program just is not true and never was. Not even the “fundamentals” are fixed, as new technologies enter the engineer’s toolkit. Engineers are going to have to accept responsibility for their own continual reeducation, and engineering schools are going to have to prepare engineers to do so by teaching them how to learn. Engineering schools should also consider organizational structures that will allow continuous programmatic adaptation to satisfy the professional needs of the engineering workforce that are changing at an increasing rate. Meeting the demands of the rapidly changing workforce calls for reconsideration of standards for faculty qualifications, appointments, and expectations. CONCLUSION The engineer of 2020 will be faced with myriad challenges, creating offensive and defensive solutions at the macro- and microscales in preparation for possible dramatic changes in the world. Engineers will be expected to anticipate and prepare for potential catastrophes such as biological terrorism; water and food contamination; infrastructure damage to roads, bridges, buildings, and the electricity grid; and communications breakdown in the Internet, telephony, radio, and television. Engineers will be asked to create solutions that minimize the risk of complete failure and at the same time prepare backup solutions that enable rapid recovery, reconstruction, and deployment. In short, they will face problems qualitatively similar to those they already face today. To solve the new problems, however, they can be expected to create an array of new and possibly revolutionary tools and technologies. These will embody the core knowledge and skills that will support effective engineering education and a sense of engineering professionalism in the new century. The challenge for the profession and engineering educa-
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century tion is to ensure that the core knowledge advances in information technology, nanoscience, biotechnology, materials science, photonics (Smerdon, 2002), and other areas yet to be discovered are delivered to engineering students so they can leverage them to achieve interdisciplinary solutions to engineering problems in their engineering practice. The rapidly changing nature of modern knowledge and technology will demand, even more so than today, that engineers so educated must embrace continuing education as a career development strategy with the same fervor that continuous improvement has been embraced by the manufacturing community. REFERENCES American Society of Civil Engineers. 2003. Report Card on America’s Aging Infrastructure. Washington, D.C.: ASCE. Awschalom, D.D., M.E. Flatté, and N. Samarth. 2002. Microelectronic devices that function by using the spin of the electron are a nascent multibillion-dollar industry—and may lead to quantum microchips. Available online at: http://www.ScientificAmerica.com. Ball, P. 2001. Biology Goes Back to the Drawing Board. Nature, February 12. Barlow, M., and T. Clarke. 2002. Who Owns Water? The Nation, September 2. Available online at: http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20020902&s=barlow. Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology. 2003. Materials Science and Technology: Challenges for the Chemical Sciences in the 21st Century. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. Brand, S. 1972. Spacewar: Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Computer Bums. Rolling Stone Magazine, December 7. Available online at: http://www.wheels.org/spacewar/stone/rolling_stone.html. California Business, Transportation, and Housing Agency. 2001. Invest for California: Strategic Planning for California’s Future Prosperity and Quality of Life. Report of the California Business, Transportation, and Housing Agency Commission on Building for the 21st Century, Sacramento, Calif. Available online at: http://www.bth.ca.gov/invest4ca/. Center for Aging Services Technologies. 2003. Progress and Possibilities: State of Technology and Aging Services. Publication of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, Washington, D.C. Available online at http://www.agingtech.org. Crishna, V., N. Baqai, B.R. Pandey, and F. Rahman. 2000. Telecommunications Infrastructure: A Long Way to Go. Publication of the South Asia Networks Organisation, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Available online at: http://www.sasianet.org. Computer Science Telecommunications Board. 2003. The Internet Under Crisis Conditions: Learning from September 11. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. Feldman, S. 2001. Presentation at Impact of Information Technology on the Future of the Research University Workshop, panel on Technology Futures, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., January 22-23.
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