During the discussion session of the forum, moderator Ali Velshi, host of “Real Money with Ali Velshi” on Al Jazeera America, briefly offered his own perspective on the future of engineering. As the presentations of the forum participants made clear, inspiration in engineering has many origins. In some cases, as with aeronautics, partnerships between government and the private sector have led to new
Left to right: Robert Schafrik, Robert Lucky, Roderic Pettigrew, Arun Majumdar, Wanda Austin, Leonard Kleinrock, C. D. Mote, Jr., Corale Brierley, and moderator Ali Velshi.
Corale Brierley and Wanda Austin.
technologies and new industries. In other cases, engineers working on their own decided to try things that no one else had tried. Sometimes national security was a driving force, or a difficult research problem, or the profit motive.
Today, said Velshi, a new source of innovation must be considered. With the connectivity of the Internet and the growing power of computing, innovation can come from anywhere, not just from those who are trained and work as engineers. The X factor, said Velshi, is “the kid who is dreaming right now who has no particular formal training, but has the Internet—the kid someplace in Africa or Asia who is going to get the Internet soon on a smartphone and is going to discover something.”
The question for engineering, Velshi continued, is how to welcome the contributions of such innovators. “Do we figure out a way to get them into the system? Do we somehow harness the power that they have outside of that system?” Such questions could challenge traditional notions of how engineers are educated and how engineering can change the world.
In another 50 years, the National Academy of Engineering will celebrate its first century, Velshi reminded the forum attendees. The
Audience members queue to ask questions during the panel discussion.
engineers sitting in the audience and elsewhere around the world will help determine what happens during those next 50 years. “For me, this is just talk. For you, you have some influence.”