Reimagining the future of engineering

  • DfX Consulting LLC
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Reimagining suggests the idea of opening up new, unconventional spaces of possibilities for an activity or an entity that already exists. This chapter sketches some ideas of the future of engineering in various aspects: designing, action, problem framing, professional and disciplinary identity, and the training of future engineers. The thoughts presented here are intended to be inconclusive. They take up and address the question of reimagining the future of engineering in order to inspire future dialogue between philosophers and engineers. Keywords Engineering education, engineering ethics education, future of engineering, responsibility, fPET Reimagining suggests the idea of opening up new, unconventional spaces of possibilities for an activity or an entity that already exists. At its most transformative, the activity of reimagining develops spaces of possibilities that alter the very definition of that activity or entity. What then would it be to reimagine the future of engineering? An exploration of such a topic cannot be done well by a single individual but rather requires the combined perspectives and insights of a number of people. The thoughts presented in this chapter had their beginnings in a workshop on this topic which took place at a meeting of the Forum on Philosophy, Engineering and Technology (fPET) at the University of Maryland, College Park, in 2018. Because participants in the workshop came from the fPET community, they included philosophers and engineers from both inside and outside the academy. On this account, reimagining the future of engineering is a matter of reimagining and redrawing the spaces of engineering itself: spaces for designing, action, problem framing, professional and disciplinary identity, and for the training of future engineers. The virtuality of future engineering A concrete example of one new space in engineering is digital space. Digital technology permeates engineering work, just like it does all parts of human life. In cyber-physical architectures, digital representations are closely associated with the physical systems to which they refer, such that both are treated as a unity. Comprehensive simulations are used to support the design of such systems, which provide digital representations of physical phenomena that include user behavior to get to

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This chapter seeks to discuss the directions in which engineering should evolve, with emphasis on the case of South America, in two dimensions. The first, at the national level, refers to the choices made by these countries in terms of developing national engineering capability. We maintain that these choices must prioritize, under all circumstances, the minimization of social and human inequality. And the second, at the individual level, is the training of engineers, who are currently eminently concerned with the technical aspects of design solutions. We believe this training leaves out what, in our view, is perhaps the most important part of the civilizing process today: the human question. For this purpose, the following will be discussed: (1) Engineering challenges in the Global South; (2) an analysis of economic and political aspects of Engineering in Latin America; and (3) Engineering from an epistemological, ethical, social and human perspective. This chapter is an argument to recover what we take as the essence of the engineer’s work: having a broad view of the field of possibilities, in order to make a comprehensive reading of a given situation and, from that, formulate a problem to be solved, through a project solution in which the technical, the human and the social variables can be reconciled. We argue that current engineers’ work in Latin America is far from embodying this essence and thus we discuss how education can play a privileged role in approaching a future generation of engineers to this ideal.KeywordsEngineering challengesHuman questionGlobal southEngineering ethicsEngineering education
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Over the past 50 years, policy makers have sought to shape new and emerging technologies in light of societal risks, public values, and ethical concerns. While much of this work has taken place during “upstream” research prioritization and “downstream” technology regulation, the actual “midstream” work of engineers and other technical experts has increasingly been seen as a site for governing technology in society. This trend towards “socio-technical integration” is reflected in various governance frameworks such as Sustainable Development (SD), Technology Assessment (TA), and Responsible Innovation (RI) that are at the center of transformation research. Discussions around SD, TA, and RI often focus on meso- and macro-level processes and dynamics, with less attention paid to the qualities of individuals that are needed to support transformation processes. We seek to highlight the importance of micro-level practices by drawing attention to the virtues of technical experts. Drawing on empirical study results from embedding philosophical-reflective dialogues within science and engineering laboratories, we claim that poietic, as well as moral and epistemic, virtues belong to those required of technical experts who foster integrative practices in transformation research.
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Engineering used to be driven by a community of experts who set themselves apart from others by establishing clear boundaries of their profession. Today, however, these boundaries have become increasingly permeable, due to the increasing dynamic and complexity of technical and economic change. The manufacturing sector illustrates this process very well. Engineering is currently becoming much more deeply involved in the usage of technical artefacts and economic questions of value creation. Engineers are therefore facing the challenge of opening up their traditional domain to collaborate with other disciplines and integrate new knowledge in their theories, concepts and procedures. This contribution shows how the Institute for Manufacturing at Cambridge University copes with this challenge, expanding the scope of topics addressed in engineering and introducing new subjects in the curriculum of the students. All this seems to be a necessary prerequisite for engineers to uphold their claims of responsibility of technical development and their contribution to well-being in society.
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This article reports on the development and teaching of compulsory courses on ethics and engineering at Delft University of Technology (DUT). Attention is paid to the teaching goals, the educational setup and methods, the contents of the courses, involvement of staff from engineering schools, experiences to date, and challenges for the future. The choices made with respect to the development and teaching of the courses are placed within the European and Dutch context and are compared and contrasted with the American situation and experiences.
Autonomous vehicle technology is maturing rapidly. It may not be long before the first fully autonomous cars operate on public roads. We examine the impact of self-driving car technology on the provisioning of personal mobility and show that the technology has the potential to disrupt the auto industry. The ability to drive without human presence and supervision unleashes the car from the need for a human driver. This enables new mobility services where anybody can summon a car by mobile app; the car appears with little delay, drives the passenger to the destination, where it is then available for the next passengers. We examine the characteristics of such fleets, discuss estimates of optimal fleet sizes and show that the fleets have the potential to greatly reduce travel cost per km and to simultaneously reduce the ecological footprint of mobility.
The Internet of Things (IoT) regularly hits the headlines and frankly it is exciting to imagine a world where we can control literally everything from a smartphone. Or is it? It is all too easy to get swept along with the relentless advances in connected devices that we are experiencing, but perhaps there is also a contrarian viewpoint that we need to consider. As companies such as Google, Apple and BMW forge ahead with driverless cars and applying the Internet of things (IoT) in transport, it's easy to get carried away by the relentless advances in connected devices. But how will all these innovations be kept secure and how can we be sure users will be safe when our transport could be accessed via the Internet? Richard Kirk of AlienVault, discusses the future risks of IoT in transport, how technological advances have made this possible, and how a lack of a security-oriented mindset is threatening the industry.
Conference Paper
In recent years, a commitment to professional ethics and professional responsibility has been included among the learning outcomes required of engineering education programmes in many counties. So, how should engineering ethics be taught? There is evidence - both within engineering education and more widely - that discussing dilemmas in formal education does lead to increases in measured moral reasoning ability. It has also been argued that ethical issues should not be taught as if they are only the individual responsibility of a particular engineer, but should rather be understood as embedded in a broader social and political context within which engineering decisions are taken. This may require more than the introduction of ethics courses; instead, it may require rethinking engineering education. The ‘hidden curriculum’ concept may be useful in this context. It suggests that, alongside the ‘formal curriculum’, students also learn some things implicitly through the social and organizational nature of their studies. Hence, discussion of dilemmas that do not have a single clear resolution can seem to students to be out of synch with the culture of engineering education which is often focused on narrowly technical solutions. Similarly, if assessment is highly competitive and individualistic, students may, implicitly, become more self-serving in their decision making. In such contexts, courses addressing ethical issues may be swimming against the cultural tide of the programme as a whole. This paper explores the role of the hidden curriculum in engineering education, drawing on quantitative data from a very large study of moral reasoning among engineering students (almost 1,000 participants with longitudinal test data at two time periods). The study also uses an innovative measure of moral reasoning (the Engineering and Science Issues Test), which was translated and used in a French language context for the first time. URL:
There is a common misconception that the automobile industry is slow to adapt new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and soft computing. The reality is that many new technologies are deployed and brought to the public through the vehicles that they drive. This paper provides an overview and a sampling of many of the ways that the automotive industry has utilized AI, soft computing and other intelligent system technologies in such diverse domains like manufacturing, diagnostics, on-board systems, warranty analysis and design.
Holistic Engineering Education: Beyond Technology
  • D Grasso
  • M Burkins
Grasso, D. and Burkins, M. (eds) (2010). Holistic Engineering Education: Beyond Technology. New York: Springer.
#ILookLikenEngineer Challenges Stereotypes
  • J Guynn
Guynn, J. (2015). "#ILookLikenEngineer Challenges Stereotypes." USA Today. 4 August.
Refractions: Feeling superior
  • H Petroski
Petroski, H. (2016). Refractions: Feeling superior. Prism September 2016.
Canons against Cannons? Social Justice and the Engineering Ethics Imaginary
  • D M Riley
  • Y Lambrinidou
Riley, D.M. and Y. Lambrinidou. 2015. "Canons against Cannons? Social Justice and the Engineering Ethics Imaginary". Presented at the 122nd Annual Conference and Exposition. June 14-17, 2015. Seattle. American Society for Engineering Education. Paper ID #12542.