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Page 35 3 The Present Era: Managing Change in the Information Age Postwar Changes in Scope After World War II the United States found itself in the role of "leader of the Free World." Its far-flung interests and commitments led it to export funds and technology to encourage development in the ravaged nations of Europe and elsewhere. (The Marshall Plan was the most extensive program of international assistance ever mounted.) The Cold War brought a continuing emphasis on national security, which had ramifications for space and nuclear technology as well as for "conventional" weapons systemsthe latter growing more sophisticated each year. At home, the baby boom and a burgeoning economy fueled a massive increase in consumption of goods of every kind, while the continuing expansion of business brought about an accelerating flow of information in the workplace. The concept of changerapid, even revolutionary changeincreasingly dominated domestic and international reality. The time scale of events seemed to become shorter. In this context of increasing complexity and rapid change, four factors seem to stand out in their importance for the engineering profession: A great expansion of the role of government; a rapid increase in the amount of information present in daily life and work; the accelerating rate of technology development; and the internationalization of business and the marketplace.
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Page 36 Expansion of Government's Role As we have seen, the federal government had played a key role in technology development in the United Statesin continental expansion, in public works and public assistance projects, in agricultural development, and through military systems development. The postwar economic boom was attended by a rapid growth in governmental participation in social and economic processes more generally. A legacy partly of the New Deal and FDR's long reign, federal planning, funding, and direction of major programs was now widely accepted. The large-scale support of national technological-social-economic objectives led to the establishment of new federal agencies: the Atomic Energy Commission in 1947, to pursue peaceful uses of atomic energy; the National Science Foundation in 1950, to support scientific research in many areas of national importance; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958, to develop a civilian space program; the Department of Transportation in 1966, to coordinate expansion and development of the nation's transportation systems. Perhaps most notable of all, in terms of its impact on engineering, was the establishment of the Department of Defense (DOD) (1949) to coordinate national defense efforts. Military technology development continued at a rapid pace in the postwar periodparticularly in the nuclear submarine program, in military aircraft and engine technology, missile guidance and control, and military electronics. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Army Corps of Engineers continued to carry out large-scale development and reclamation projects, particularly focusing on irrigation canals and the dredging of rivers, harbors, and inlets. Since the late 1960s one aspect of societal demand-pull on engineering has been the development of means of curbing technology itself and controlling its effects. In response to this demand, agencies such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency emerged to regulate and direct technology development. Large numbers of engineers entered government service or the private sector to work for these agencies directly or under contract to them. The net effect was that engineers now acted as "technological policemen" through the application of engineering skills and knowledge to meet regulatory requirements. As a result of government funding for R&D in new areas, new engineering disciplines began to emerge, and older ones began to experience a subdivision into new specialties. Massive NASA and DOD spending on aircraft and rocket programs caused a considerable upsurge in the numbers of people engaged in aerospace engineering. Wartime and
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Page 37 postwar programs to develop radar, communication, and computer technology, funded especially by DOD, led to the emergence of electronics engineering from the more established radio and electrical engineering fields. Nuclear engineering developed as a hybrid of chemical, electrical, and mechanical engineering to support the late-1950s and early-1960s enthusiasm for nuclear power generation. Transportation engineering grew in proportion with the federal highway system. By the late 1960s environmental engineering was emerging in response to public concern about the disruption of ecosystems and the pollution of air and water by chemical by-products of industry and the internal combustion engine. These new fields were well funded from the start, and demand for specialists in them would often grow intense over a period of just a year or so. Curriculum development in the new fields as well as the older branches was driven to a great extent by large DOD and NASA contracts for pilot programs and R&D activities, which fed money and requirements back into the universities in the form of research grants. Indeed, in many cases the new disciplines were simply applications of an older set of skills in a specialized setting with enormous funding. It was the degree of specialization and the number of people involved that came to define a field. Apart from the setting of directions, the major new factor introduced by government support of technology development in the postwar period has been the tremendous scale of programs. The manned space program, defense command and control systems, the interstate highway system, urban development programs, and many other government-funded efforts all represent a quantum increase in the human and technological resources devoted to applying science to societal needs through engineering. The great expansion of the defense industry in particular meant that U.S. leadership in high technology now began to derive from defense rather than civilian needs. This new driver of development in the present era has surpassed the older, strictly commercial market-driven mechanisms for development that characterized the first century and a half of engineering in the United States. Its dominance has become so strong that, in fact, it may be threatening the continued health of those civilian market mechanisms. The panel is concerned that future problems may emerge from either of two directions: (1) a shortage of engineers to meet societal needs apart from those driven by government [e.g., defense and space) and (2) the possibility that government-based requirements will strongly distort the fundamental nature and purposes of engineering education. To be sure, defense R&D expenditures have stimulated the forma-
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Page 38 tion and growth of important commercial markets (commercial aviation and computers for business and personal use are just two examples). However, these expenditures have also led indirectly to the decline of interest in fields that later proved important. For example, the near-demise of the traditional electrical power option in engineering curricula had major repercussions when the energy crisis arrived in 1973; and the decline of interest in manufacturing engineering has no doubt figured in the gradual loss of goods production to factories abroad in recent years. The panel believes that there is a strong imbalance in the overall impact that government spending has on the commercial sector and on defense. Policymakers should recognize that, ultimately, the private/commercial sector and the public/defense sector of the economy are interrelated. To a large extent the nation's economic health, its innovative capacity, and its productivity depend on the strength of private business and industry. In that sense, the strength of the commercial infrastructure is a basic element of national security; its maintenance and support should be matters of concern to the federal government. The Information Explosion A second major change in the postwar period has been the emergence of information as a new type of commodity. The technological society produces and uses data at an increasingly rapid rate. The proliferation of technological goods and services combines with the information needs of a growing, increasingly sophisticated population to create a strong demand for improved means of generating, storing, manipulating, and communicating information. Especially in industry and government, problems of information resource managementthat is, how to handle and distribute massive amounts of information efficiently within an organizationhave gained prominence over the past two decades. The major new development affecting engineering with regard to this phenomenon has been the advent of the computer. As a new technology the computer may surpass the steam engine in its impact on the way business is done, and indeed on the very nature of business. It is a major factor in the shift toward a service-based economy in the United States, in which the production and management of information predominates over hard goods. Because computer systems, which were devised to handle large quantities of data, also produce it in large quantities, they are both a cause and an effect of the "information explosion" of the past 20 years. Furthermore, advances in computer technology are generalizable to a great many applications, not all of
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Page 39 them in business. (An estimated 17 million personal computers were sold worldwide in 1984.] Thus, these machines generate a self-perpetuating demand for the technology they embody. Consequently, there is a great demand for engineers who design and configure computer systems; the 1970s saw a nearly exponential rise in demand for electronics engineers. A new category of product brought about by computers is software, which instructs the computer in a programmed method of operation. Like any other product, software is designed and developed before being produced for sale. Like many other contemporary products it is highly technical in nature; but it is based on computer rather than physical science (Jensen, 1984). The designing of software products has opened up a new specialty of engineering and is further broadening the definition of engineering work. Accelerated Technology Development Fueling the revolution in information products, and to some extent deriving from it, has been a great increase in the rate of technology development in general in the postwar period. Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, technology (whether measured by patents or any other yardstick) had progressed at a steadily accelerating rate. But in the 1950s, spurred by massive government R&D spending, by a vibrant economy, and by mass consumerism on an unprecedented scale, the rate of development climbed to new highs. New technologies spawned new technologies as the demand for engineering-related goods and services continued unabated. The fuller and more rapid incorporation of scientific advances into engineering education and practice quickened the pace of technology development. It became commonplace to observe that the sum total of knowledge was doubling at shorter and shorter intervals. The overall rate of technological change itself thus had the potential to exert considerable stress on engineering. It is pertinent to ask whether the engineering supply system in general, and the technology development process in particular, has adapted adequately to the high degree of changeand whether it will continue to adapt. Global Business, Global Markets Since the 1950s, American business interests have expanded in scope to encompass most of the world's countries. Exports of raw materials, agricultural products, and manufactured goods continue to be a major
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Page 40 element of the U.S. economy. The rise of multinational corporations in the petroleum, electronics, machinery, chemical, and other technology-intensive industries, as well as the sale of weapons systems by the government, have a substantial impact on engineering employment and business roles. The other side of this coin is that many of our allies and many newly developed nations have in recent years acquired (or regained) formidable engineering and industrial production capabilities of their own. Thus, the importation of manufactured goods becomes a major factor for American business and the economy as international competition intensifies. Also, large numbers of American engineers are now employed by foreign multinational corporations and even by foreign countries. Business is effectively becoming internationalized as geographic and language barriers dissolve. The panel believes that the rate of technology development, the quality of engineering education, and the role of the engineer in society are all far more critical under such competitive circumstances than they were at a time when American dominance of nearly every technical field was secure. It is the economic corollary of the earlier assumption by engineering of a critical role in national security. Thus, concerns about American competitiveness, particularly in "high-technology" areas, are bringing about significant changes in the orientation of government toward business. Not only are joint R&D and cooperative industry/university and intercompany ventures being encouraged, but the possibility of targeted government assistance to industries and other forms of intervention is being considered. It is clear that these developments have major present and potential ramifications for engineering. Impacts on Engineering The effects of these changes in the scope and scale of American business on the engineering profession are numerous and, in some cases, profound. Because the rate of change is increased and because circumstances often affect more than one industry, impacts tend to cross disciplinary lines and to affect large segments of the profession. If the U.S. economy is no longer isolated from world events, neither are engineers isolated from societywide or worldwide events. One of the purposes of this report is to assess the extent to which the established structure of engineering is taking the strain and meeting contemporary needs. To that end, we will examine impacts on the professional disciplinary structure, on the engineering educational system, on the professional societies, and on the individual engineer.
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Page 41 Multiplying Specialties/Interdisciplinary Activity The rapidand sometimes suddenintroduction of new products and processes throughout the present era has caused a fragmentation of disciplines into subdisciplines and narrow specialties. This degree of change (and thus of specialization) leaves engineers more vulnerable to obsolescence. A dramatic example was the substitution of transistors for vacuum tube technology in the mid-1950s, followed by the similar substitution of the integrated circuit for transistors some 10 years later. Contrary to what might have been expected, the impact on engineers of those two events was relatively minor. In each case, the fact that there were virtually no engineers specifically trained in the new technologiesand that the changes came so quicklymeant that practitioners of the obsolete technology were the best positioned and best prepared to apply the new technology. They adapted. This capacity for adaptation is often evident when new technologies are introduced. It is even more striking when it involves cross-disciplinary movement. For example, when the manned space program geared up in the late 1950s, there were virtually no qualified aerospace engineers. Instead, aeronautical, mechanical, and electronics engineers, mathematicians, and scientists of all types were able to adapt their knowledge to the requirements of the space-flight regime. When the Apollo program ended rather abruptly in the early 1970s, those several thousand engineers were eventually reabsorbed by industryalthough the process was traumatic for at least three years, and its repercussions may still be seen in the careers of individual engineers. Currently, new composite materials being employed in the construction of aircraft bodies require ''composite structures engineers''; since there are few people actually trained in this technology, the need is being met by metallurgical engineers, materials scientists, and chemical and mechanical engineers. One reason for this capacity for flexibility may be that engineering work is often more interdisciplinary than in the past and is becoming even more so. This might seem paradoxical, given the increased specialization mentioned earlier; but in reality, specialization often demands the presence of many specialists in different fields on a development project, particularly for complex systems. Thus, engineers acquire on the job a familiarity with associated or related specialties, as well as added competence to handle real-world problems that are beyond the scope of any narrow group of skills. These countervailing requirements to be a specialist and a generalist are part of what is, in effect, a new definition of engineering. The new definition derives from a pervasive trend toward the systems approach
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Page 42 to engineering development. The aerospace field led the way in developing the systems engineering approach, because of the emphasis on high performance at minimum size and weight. In general, systems engineering permits the interfacing of various subsystems and components of a complex product in such a way that performance, weight, cost, and other important parameters can be optimized in selective fashion. The product can be designed as a single, integrated system, rather than as a loose assemblage of separate systems. The interfacing of different areas of knowledge is also essential in new fields such as biotechnology, in which sophisticated scientific methods are used by engineers for production of completely new forms of biological "materials." Even as conventional a project as the design and construction of a modern office building is an exercise in the systems approach; heating and air conditioning engineers, structural engineers, design engineers, electrical, electronics, and environmental engineers routinely participate with civil engineers and architects in the development of a building that functions in many respects like an animate object. The panel believes that such a working environment imparts a flexibility to engineers that allows them to better adapt to the changing environment in which they operate. The Educational System The rapid pace of technological change, the increased degree of specialization, and sharp fluctuations in demand for engineers in various fields have all placed considerable stress on the engineering education system. Over the past 10 to 12 years, as the overall number of students entering college has plateaued and federal subsidies have begun to decrease, engineering schools have had fewer funds available for improvements to existing facilities and equipmenteven though at the same time engineering school enrollments have climbed dramatically. Rapid changes in industrial equipment and tools used by engineersparticularly in electronics engineering, but also for computers in generalhave meant that schools cannot afford to keep current the equipment they use for training engineers (see, for example, National Academy of Engineering, 1981). Thus, in the most rapidly developing and critical fields, graduates enter industry with a serious lack of some important skills and knowledge. High salaries and attractive benefits offered by industry to young B.S. engineering graduates have led to a severe decline in the number of American students opting for graduate study in engineeringespecially at the Ph.D. level. Consequently, there is a shortage of Ph.D.
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Page 43 engineers to staff engineering schools. As a result, schools have difficulty coping with larger enrollments and shifting patterns of enrollment. With employment in industry booming, a relatively low-paying faculty position is less attractive to qualified young engineers. More money is not the only consideration here; the nature of the job in general is less appealing under today's constrained circumstances. The shortage of faculty has been a major problem for engineering schools for a number of years (see, for example, Shakertown Conference, 1981). Combined with the generally increased numbers of engineering students in classes, the changing patterns of enrollment, and the scarcity of adequate equipment, the faculty shortage has serious implications for the quality of engineering graduates (see National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges, 1982). Fluctuating demand by industry for graduates in various fields and with specific kinds of training is something that schools in general are not well equipped to deal withparticularly when changes in demand occur relatively quickly. Since the duration of schooling is generally four years, there is a lag time of at least that long before requirements can begin to be met. The high demand for environmental engineers came somewhat suddenly around 1970; some seven or eight years later, that demand declined just as abruptly. Fortunately for many young environmental engineers who had just entered the profession or were still graduating at that point, their training was sufficiently interdisciplinary (usually chemical and industrial engineering with some chemistry and biology on a civil engineering base) that they were still employable by government and industry in other areas (for example, energy systems, safety, occupational health) if environmental jobs were not available. However, not all environmental engineers were generalists and thus so adaptable. And in other disciplines, where greater specificity of knowledge is the rule, such flexibility is not as easy to achieve. In fields where growth is forestalled by stabilized or declining demand, surpluses of engineers occur. At present, for example, civil and chemical engineers are said to be in oversupply. This condition is partly a function of increased demand in other fieldsintensive development elsewhere draws capital resources as well as consumer interest away from mature industries. Here again, these shifts often occur more quickly than the student cohort is able to adjust to them. The example of environmental engineering suggests another form of fluctuating demand that has come to affect engineering education in the past 20 years: fluctuations in student demand for engineering as a major. The late 1960s and early 1970s saw a dramatic drop in engineer-
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Page 44 ing school enrollments, resulting from a decline in general economic activity, a recession in the aerospace field, and changing attitudes among the young. Yet student demand for engineering education later rose as sharply as it had dropped: Fluctuations at this end of the "engineer supply system" can create stresses as great as fluctuating industry demand can create. Figure 1 depicts changes in engineering enrollment, and their primary causes, over a nearly 40-year period. Engineering schools and departments of engineering have to cope in different ways with both of these stresses, usually under conditions of declining resources and diminishing faculty. This is not an easy task; it has led to calls of "crisis" from many quarters in recent years. Fortunately, government and industry are now paying attention to the seriousness of these problems and to the need to devise ways of easing the strain on the educational system. Industry, for example, as an alternative to hiring engineering faculty members, has begun to emphasize such creative approaches as shared staffing, fellowships to encourage graduate study, support for young faculty, and "forgivable" loans. Cooperative industry/university R&D programs in such fields as manufacturing engineering, robotics, and computer-aided design and manufacturing are also a positive step. The Professional Societies Much of the pressure to manage change in the present era has been put on the engineering professional societies. The role of the societies has largely shifted, over the last 50 years, from that of a business information clearinghouse (in essence, a club) to that of an educational society. The societies are all active in publishing technical papers, sponsoring conferences, etc.; through technical communication they follow advancements in the state of the art. To some extent they also function as spokesmen for the interests of their members in the policy-making process (whether state or federal). A third, and very important, function is their participation in the voluntary standards-setting process for techniques and products relevant to their respective disciplines. Relying on member support and participation, societies develop standards and submit them to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for authentication and publication. A fourth function of increasing importance for the societies is representing the engineer to the public at large. This public relations function is relatively new, deriving from the late 1960s and early 1970s, when mistrust of technology was more prevalent in society. In essence,
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Page 45 Figure 1 Engineering degrees and 1st-year enrollments: Historical factors influencing changes in engineering enrollments.
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Page 46 it is an attempt to represent the profession accurately to the voters and taxpayers whose support for engineering and for technological advancement in general is important to the profession. A fifth function of the societies is related to this concern for image, although it predates it considerably: The professional societies are active in the continuing process of establishing and adjusting professional ethics. The historical basis for this concern is the duality of the engineer's role as both professional and employee (Florman, 1981). The issue has intensified in the present era as the potential harmfulness of many engineering products has increased (particularly in the chemical and nuclear engineering fields), and as public attention to these matters has grown accordingly. The Engineer as Employee Engineer as Corporate Employee. In the postwar period the rapid growth of big business has led to major changes in the way that most engineers work. A growing emphasis on the science of business administration from the late 1950s on has strongly affected the role of engineers in the corporate world; indeed, many top engineers nowadays acquire management training to enhance their professional status and abilities. Panel members now see indications that, with increased international competition in recent years, the emphasis in management style within many companies is shifting toward the integration of technical knowledge with management skills. The more competitive and international environment of engineering today has multiple impacts on the engineer as a corporate employee. A variety of new business management approaches have come into use in engineering-oriented companies during the last 10–15 years. One of these is the "matrix management" structure for organizing project work. Under this system, engineers, scientists, and technicians are assigned as needed from functional departments for the duration of a project; when the project is concluded, the project team is broken up and dispersed to other projects. While this approach permits efficient allocation of human resources, in many cases it minimizes the cohesiveness of the team because members do not work together on a permanent basis (of course the length of association depends on the size of the project). Such project teams also usually include a large number of engineers, so that specialization of individual roles is emphasized. This may again detract from an individual's sense of professionalism and commitment to the project. Rapid developments in technology and the changing competitive fortunes of companies create a sense of turbulence in some engineering
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Page 47 fieldsparticularly in the high-tech electronics, aerospace, and biotechnology industries. Whether there are shortages of engineers in these fields or not, the sense of shortage persists. The problem is compounded by engineers in these disciplines frequently switching jobs to obtain higher salaries. This practice imparts a "free lance" quality to contemporary engineering employment in many fields: the emphasis is strongly on the engineer's personal advantage and advancement, often at the expense of company welfare. The loss of company identification that results from this mobility complements the loss of team identification that may result from project staffing practices. Another important aspect of engineering work life in the contemporary corporate environment is the tension that many engineers feel between their professional role and their role as an employee. This tension has been present to some extent since the late nineteenth century, when corporate employment of engineers became widespread; but it has acquired new forms with the intensification of business competition and the development of potentially harmful commercial and consumer products. The most common form is the emergence of ethical dilemmas such as the question of "whistle-blowing." These situations often involve instances of blatant wrongdoing, where one's duty as a citizen as well as a professional is clear-cut. But there are also more subtle ethical questions that a professional must sometimes confront, relating perhaps to a basic conflict between one's values and the nature of one's work on a particular project. Engineer as Government Employee. The engineer as civil servant is not a new phenomenon, or even a phenomenon strictly of this century. One of the earliest examples of the engineer as employee on a large scale was the Army Corps of Engineers, and planners of development on the municipal, state, regional, and national level have often been engineers. However, it was not until the 1930s, and particularly from World War II on, that government began to employ civilian engineers in large numbers from every discipline. In the postwar period the formation of the various federal agencies dedicated to planning, directing, and regulating development in nearly every area of social and economic life prompted a virtual boom in engineering employment opportunities. By 1980, government employees at every level of government accounted for 15 percent of the 1.4 million engineers then in the U.S. work force (unpublished NSF data). Table 1 shows the distribution of these engineers in the federal government, the military, and state and local governments. Apart from direct employment, government supports many more
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Page 48 TABLE 1 Engineers in Government, 1980 Category Number Employed % of Total Federal 101,600 7.3 Military 22,300 1.6 State & local 84,300 6.1 All government 208,200 15.0. Total U.S. 1,387,000 100.0 Source: NSF, unpublished data. engineers indirectly, through contract funding. At the level of prime contractor, the federal government supports an additional 24 percent of all U.S. engineers; subcontracting adds another 8 percent to the total (based on estimates provided by Dr. Aaron Gellman). Engineering in government is different in a number of significant ways from private-sector engineering employment. The primary difference has to do with the nature of the employer. Because government is noncommercial and nonprofit, many of the features of work life that predominate in competitive industry are absent, or at least not as prominent, in government engineering employment. The number of government engineers who perform design and development work is relatively small, according to estimates given to the panel by personnel officers of various mission agencies. Usually these "engineering" engineers are associated with testing and standards-setting activitiesexcept in the military, where a considerable amount of systems development is done by (usually civilian) engineers in the different services. Instead, the majority of engineers across all categories of government are involved to a great extent in the planning and management of contractor services. Thus, the managing of budgets and schedules and the competition for fiscal resources form a considerable and distinctive part of engineering work in government. This contrast between engineering in government and in industry stems from a basic difference in the objectives of the private and public sector organizations: profit-making on the one hand, and the performance of public functions and services on the other. An oft-cited aspect of engineering in government is the perception that salaries are lower than for comparable positions in industry. Research and development facilities are also often believed to be less advanced and less complete than in industry; office space and support services are another area in which government engineering work is often considered to compare poorly with engineering in the private
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Page 49 sector. Whether true or not, these perceptions contribute to a prevailing belief among engineers (and other professionals as well) that government employment is comparatively unattractive. Because of this image problem, government today has difficulty attracting large numbers of highly qualified engineers. And because of the very real inducements of industry employment, it also has trouble keeping experienced personnel. By and large, there is a unidirectional flow of engineers out of government and into industryparticularly in the federal government/military, and most particularly for those whose work has involved them in state-of-the-art development projects in electronics, computers, and other growing fields. This loss of experience and talent from the government work force is, in one sense, unfortunate; but it may also be beneficial in that certain positive values gained in the service of government are thereby continually being circulated into industry. These values derive from the third way in which engineering in government differs from engineering in the private sector; that is, most engineers in civil service are necessarily more attuned to broad social needs and concerns relating to their work than are their counterparts in industry. In many federal agencies they stand to some extent as intermediaries between economic forces and the greater public good, through regulation of industries, setting of safety and quality standards for industrial products and practices, and enforcement of those standards through testing. At the state and local level they also represent the more specific interests and needs of the people in the jurisdictions they serve for the entire range of government services. As the role of government has expanded, as regulation of private-sector activities has increased, and as general public interest in issues such as the environment, nuclear power, product safety, and government spending has intensified, this aspect of the government engineer's work has become proportionately more demanding. Intensification of Social Issues in Engineering As we have seen, an indirect effect of the changes in scope and scale of engineering activities in the postwar period has been an increase in the awareness and critical scrutiny of these activities by the general public. By the 1970s, changing societal attitudes had given rise to a prevalent mistrust of technologyoften referred to as "antitechnology" sentiment (Florman, 1981). This change from the sanguine attitudes of earlier periods has been partly the result of rising educational levels in the population as a whole since World War II, so that there is less awe of the engineer, less willingness to trust engineering implicitly and to
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Page 50 accept on faith the value of engineering achievements. After all, the engineer is just another college graduate. Heightened critical awareness is also a function of the greatly expanded capacity of technology for doing harm to individuals, the environment, and society itself. While popular attitudes toward technology in general have become considerably more positive in recent years (Yankelovich, 1984), criticism of particular projects and programs is still often in evidence. Although antitechnology sentiment could be detected in the early part of this century (as in Chaplin's film "Modern Times"), the growth of social concerns regarding engineering activities in the present era can probably be traced from the atomic explosions that ended the war with Japan. Those events, effective as they may have been in ending the war quickly, were an appalling revelation of the power of science and engineering working in tandem. The environmental effects of industrial and auto emissions into air and water became a major issue during the late 1950s and early 1960s, made evident by urban smog and dying rivers, and publicized by books such as Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. Underlying public concerns about technology and the morality of its purveyors increased during the Vietnam War, with its televised scenes of napalmed villages and defoliated jungles. During the same period, Ralph Nader projected questions about the responsibility of manufacturers in the design and production of consumer goods into the public consciousness. Later in the 1970s, Three Mile Island brought latent fears about the safety of nuclear power to the fore, further curbing development of that already struggling industry. Currently, the effect of automation on employment in large manufacturing industries is becoming a major social issue.1 The other side of the antitechnology coin is that with greater public awareness of the power of technology to shape society has come a new set of demands for technology to improve life. There are constantly rising expectations for better performance, reliability, and safety of products. We demand economic growth but expect technology to maintain a clean environment. We look to technology for the means to minimize the danger of war: inspection techniques, warning systems, etc. We want engineers to make us invulnerablethat is, to ensure that we can win any warand at the same time we require that they provide 1 A lawsuit in the California courts as of the time of writing is a case in point. The suit challenges the right of California state universities to pursue research in automation, on the grounds that public funds are being used to further corporate interests to the detriment of workersthe "public." The suit charges that such activity is in basic conflict with the intent of the Morrill Act.
Page 51 the technical means to prevent war. We expect medical benefits from biotechnology and new or extended energy sources from chemical and petroleum engineers. And, in fact, engineers and the engineering-related industries meet nearly all of these expectations. It is undeniable that without the technological advances made and implemented just since World War II, Americans would not be as well off as they are today. Without all the technology that supports our large population and modern service-oriented economy, the standard of living and the quality of life in the United States would both be lower. People would generally have less mobility, less leisure time, less entertainment, less time for education, less enjoyment, a less reliable food supply, a dirtier environment, and shorter lives. Yet with many technological advances comes a backlash. Effective detergents containing phosphates turn out to produce ''bloom'' on ponds. Cleaned up and lengthened industrial smokestacks turn out to cause acid rain. Engineering is required to solve these problems, too (and, ironically, is held partly to blame for them). What are the implications of these social concerns for the practicing engineer today? Antitechnology tides have ebbed and flowed throughout the twentieth century, but it is likely that engineering and technology will continue to be scrutinized and criticized on the one hand, and, on the other, asked to perform miracles. Engineers will have to learn, at least to some extent, how to operate in a fishbowl. Government engineers have for some time been aware of how intense this pressure can be. The panel suggests, then, that one new requirement may be for engineering education to prepare engineers to conduct their professional activities with a greater awareness of their social responsibilities. They should be trained to view their work in light of anticipated criticismnot just from a technical standpoint, but on a social basis as well. There are obvious problems inherent in thisbeginning with the fact that, in industry, individual engineers have rarely had control over whether or not a given line of development is to be pursued. Once a decision has been made, usually the engineer's choices are regrettably well defined: participate or leave. But if more engineers move into corporate management, their influence in such matters will grow. In addition, if the majority of young engineers become sensitized to the social ramifications of their work during the course of their education, their collective viewpoints may come to represent a formidable force within their respective industries. This would indeed be a powerful demonstration of the exercise of professionalism and professional responsibility in the modern engineering context.
Page 52 The engineering profession as a whole has tended to be wary of becoming involved in broad social questions relating to engineering work (see Christiansen, 1984). For one thing, such issues are often highly charged politically and emotionally, and full of ambiguity. As such, they are not very compatible with the rational, pragmatic style of mind that characterizes the engineer. For another thing, such issues tend by their nature to threaten the stability and security of the corporate and commercial world in which most engineers work. But concerns of this kind are increasingly impinging on the professional ethics of engineering. And, as was just pointed out, they may do so increasingly in the future. The panel believes that it is entirely appropriate for engineers and the engineering profession to formulate reasonable views on these mattersin fact, professional responsibility requires it. Armed with the pertinent facts and a broad view of the world around them, engineers should find that they can apply the engineering problem-solving approach effectively even to nonengineering problems. Certainly the professional societies, which have long grappled with ethical questions, can be instrumental in informing engineers and addressing large political and social issues on behalf of the profession. One logical mechanism for accomplishing this could be an umbrella organization like the American Association of Engineering Societies (AAES), working in concert with the various professional and technical societies. Whatever the best means to meet it, the need for the profession to acknowledge and respond to social issues will continue to grow stronger.
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