Modern engineering is best described as using mathematics and science to solve problems for the people. Of course, engineering itself is a process that has been around since ancient times. From simple machines, to the idea of using inclines to move heavy objects vertically may seem rather common to us now but were ingenious solutions in those times. So how has a profession that spans the history of humankind fared in the 21st century? The answer to that question, paradoxically, lies in the philosophy of the modern engineer.
Engineers, from their University years and throughout their careers, are deemed experts in the technical sphere. They learn state-of-the-art concepts and evolve complex equations beyond most boundaries. They are taught to understand the laws of Physics, and question how they apply to the most advanced challenges. Their focus is typically on efficient and sustainable solutions that are tested and proven. They stand on the shoulders of the giants before them and push the industry forward.
But what happens when there are no precedents? What happens when the questions facing us are less technical, and much more philosophical?
Today’s engineers are asked to prove themselves in that exact scenario. My hypothesis is that a rare few will rise to the challenge and set a new era for the engineering profession. Why? Because they must. It is no longer sufficient that engineers provide sound, economic, and efficient solutions. We must now join the conversation, or rather, debate, on what the world will look like. Making processes more efficient seems less important in a world grappling with what its new identity is. Innovating to faster and stronger techniques will have little impact in a world not prepared for them.
The time is now. We have long aspired to be taken seriously. We have long aspired to have our technical expertise provide a positive impact to the world. The only way, the only way that occurs is if we learn to talk the talk. If we learn to tell a story of a future world built around the foundations of sustainable (and yet economic) processes that gives our biggest stakeholder, the public, a more positive outlook on their world.
The only way we can do this is if we learn to become the one thing we have ignored.
Engineering has been around since the beginning of humankind, and it will stay with us for long past our lifetimes. The way it contributes to the world, that is up to us.
Trajce Nikolov, P.Eng