About the Seminar:
Reports from the National Academy of Engineering have visualized The Engineer of 2020 (2004) and delineated Grand Challenges for Engineering (2008). Attributes of the Engineer of 2020 include: “the need to … possess a working framework upon which high ethical standards and a strong sense of professionalism can be developed…. Successful engineers in 2020 will, as they always have, recognize the broader contexts that are intertwined in technology and its application in society.” Similarly, in meeting the Grand Challenges it is argued that engineers will address societal concerns including “sustainability, health, vulnerability, and joy of living.” The reports fall short, however, on plotting a clear course for the new engineer in contributing to the achievement of ethical and socially responsible outcomes. The Grand Challenges report, for example, scarcely mentions ethics, adopts a technocratic stance in equating social progress to technical progress, focuses to a great extent on large scale technological fixes, and argues that people must adapt to technological change (and not the other way around). This presentation will provide a critique of the reports (especially the Grand Challenges) and efforts of engineering educators and professional engineering societies in the wake of the reports; suggest a more dynamic characterization of the new engineer; and suggest approaches for formulating challenges for engineering that more effectively incorporate the social and ethical responsibilities of engineers and the engineering profession. In particular, the presentation will focus on developments in macroethics, social sustainability, and the unique challenges of emerging technologies.