It is remarkable how technology has advanced over the years. Since the industrial revolution that started in Europe in the early 19th century, technology has changed dramatically in almost all fields of human endeavor that it would be quite impossible to enumerate. Despite several drawbacks, technology is generally perceived as beneficial. Some people, for instance, may criticize that computers and the internet make people lazy or stupid, but ironically, the same people who criticize technology are also the ones that are utilizing it. But despite mainstream society’s fondness of technology, all these technological advancements today does not seem to make any sense. As observed by professor and author, Rudi Volti, society’s support of technology is “based more on faith than on understanding” (Volti, 2014, p.3). Volti’s observation is quite accurate. Most people are, indeed, “poorly informed spectators seemingly incapable of understanding an esoteric realm of laser, microprocessors, gene splicing and nanomaterials” and this ignorance, according to Volti, is one of the greatest problems of contemporary society (Volti, 2014, p.3).
Unforseen Impact of Technology
Perhaps Volti is right. Even scientists and inventors, for instance, does not comprehend the social impact of their work not until their work were applied in mainstream society. Who would think, for instance, that Alexander Graham Bell’s work on transmitting signals over the wire would eventually lead to the invention of the telephone and open new ways of communication technologies that would deem manually written correspondence obsolete. And most likely, physicists, Pierre and Marie Curie was unaware that their discovery of radioactivity would be used to cure certain cancers and yet would also lead to the invention of the nuclear bomb. Or who would know that Gregor Mendel’s simple experiment with peas would lead to the discovery of genetics and the eventual invention of genetically modified organisms, which is loathed by many, but considered as revolutionary by some enthusiasts.
The Role of Engineering in the Advancement of Technology
Such is the dilemma concerning engineers when confronted with the rapid technological developments of the 21st century. While the common people are enjoying the benefits of technology, engineers, with their fundamental knowledge on how things work, view technology in a different perspective. Tasked with the practical application of science and technology to a wide variety of real-life problems in human society, engineers are not only concerned about scientific discoveries and technological advancements. Most importantly, they have the moral and ethical obligation to assess the impact of such technologies prior to its application. In addressing, say for example, the demands of society for water supply, engineers do not just build dams indiscriminately according to their convenience. Prior to the building of such infrastructures, a substantial study and assessment is conducted as to the possible environmental impact that such technological improvements would bring. Similarly, in the field of genetic technology, engineers do not readily apply their knowledge about genetic engineering despite the fact that such technologies are already available. Human DNA, for instance, can now be altered and yet its application has been discreet considering the possible ethical implications. Engineers, thereby, play a crucial role in the development and application of recent technologies as their actions could impact society permanently. Nevertheless, engineers make human lives so much easier by enhancing existing technologies. The world’s first computers, for instance, have a hard drive that contains only 5MB of data, but weights more than two refrigerators combined. With the help of engineers who painstakingly design and develop computer components, society are now enjoying much smaller and yet much powerful computing devices.
Engineering and technology are mutually supportive of each other. Engineers, for instance, plays a crucial role in developing technologies while existing technologies inspire engineers to further improve their work. Engineers are, therefore, not just passive technology observers. Apparently, they are active participants in the development and course of technology in the 21st century.
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