Enlighten the World with Hope for Green Engineering to Inspire Global Peace

Impending Shift in Engineering Requirements

The engineering profession is a small but influential community whose performance affects almost every aspect of modern life. Engineers are practical people. They utilize the knowledge from the sciences, while combining it with the best practices to create innovative products and services. The ultimate creation and operation of engineering artifacts originate, in large measure, from initial requirements, which emanate from the changing needs of society.

These requirements have expanded significantly over the years. Before the industrial revolution of the eighteenth century, the primary engineering challenge was functionality. In the intervening two-hundred years, new requirements have hit the engineering profession like a series of tidal waves. A few of these include: production volume, cost reduction, production efficiency, improved looks and marketability, quality considerations, pollution controls, safety concerns, automation, computerization, miniaturization, complex systems integration, and resource constraints. Engineers have met these challenges within an evolving and expanding disciplinary structure. While multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary approaches have certainly produced some interesting developments, the focus has primarily been the artifact as a complex system not the artifact as part of a complex adaptive system.

The engineering profession is again being challenged with a new and potent set of requirements, which appear imminent: population growth, resource scarcity, environmental change. For example, these include observable changes to the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere resulting in significant shifts from the environmental norms under which the artifacts of our civilization were originally designed. In the past, these aspects of the engineering design could be taken for granted, due to the apparent stability of the environment within a narrow, acceptable, and predictable range of change. However, shifting requirements from environmental changes will not be easily addressed with methods descended from our industrial age. The environment is a complex adaptive system defying prediction, especially long-term prediction. With environmental change, solutions may not be so amenable to the usual disciplinary approaches. The unexpected may soon become unavoidable, and our system must adapt with these changes.

The engineering profession is again being challenged with a new and potent set of requirements, which appear imminent: population growth, resource scarcity, environmental change. For example, these include observable changes to the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere resulting in significant shifts from the environmental norms under which the artifacts of our civilization were originally designed. In the past, these aspects of the engineering design could be taken for granted, due to the apparent stability of the environment within a narrow, acceptable, and predictable range of change. However, shifting requirements from environmental changes will not be easily addressed with methods descended from our industrial age. The environment is a complex adaptive system defying prediction, especially long-term prediction. With environmental change, solutions may not be so amenable to the usual disciplinary approaches. The unexpected may soon become unavoidable, and our system must adapt with these changes. 

Issues of environmental change are of increasing concern for both developed and developing

nations of the world. In a period of environmental change, engineering must garner all its resources, across all disciplines, and face this new challenge. Not only will more engineers be required, but also they must collaborate and interact in new and more integrated ways to confront the engineering changes of the future.  Engineering must now consider the whole, which includes the earth's environment, and directly address complex adaptive systems design. Engineering education must produce a new kind of engineer, one that breaks the barriers of disciplinary thinking.  Transdisciplinarity must become an integral part of this venerable profession's future.

 

 

 

 

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