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As an engineer, great rewards and great responsibilities lie in wait

“If your parents didn’t have children, the chances are you won’t have children either”. One of my uncle’s favourite jokes reminds us, at a deeper level, that the present wouldn’t be the present if it weren’t for the past. Progress wouldn’t be progress if it weren’t for the past to make progress relative.

Once we put stylus to screen or express ourselves in any form or manner, we each become historians. We become historians that set contributions from the present in the context of the past. Let us return to where this series of thoughts began and see just where we have arrived:

We are all both mentees and mentors, on parallel journeys, parallel but complementary. We are each defined by our habits, past and present, and graduate study may be our time to trial habits-new, to reaffirm habits-old and to define a comfortable habitat that evolves and endures.

We traveled back in time to consider Big-Bang Engineering – the possibility of engineering with science that remains unknown. This may be the century where creative engineering exploits fundamental scientific discoveries of the past. However, new science lies on the universe’s horizon, and beyond that horizon a plethora of new engineering applications lie in store.

We pondered the meaning of uncertainty, uncertain uncertainty and many recursions thereof. Understanding uncertainty, in our societies and our economies, is the challenge of this century and the rigor of our engineering can lend a crucial contribution. Social sciences may become more quantitative and engineering may be become more social. Engineers will deal with changing demographics, including aging populations. Interactive and user centered engineering designs may surpass Maslow’s hierarchy and satisfy greater needs than those we currently dream possible.

In these changing ages we suspect a growing emphasis on innovation. As populations reach a maximum and as higher education spreads worldwide, a continuation of growth and of progress will be spurred not by growth in extent but by intensive growth, i.e. innovation. From a very early age, we will teach innovation.

These changing ages will bring a changing economic and social landscape to our work and to our world. The western world will adapt and increasingly realise that the world is shaped by a history and a culture that is not its own. For those that embrace this change, great opportunity lies in wait.

Finally, last week, we zoomed right in to the big picture, we zoomed in to our lives, to the lives of you and me. We recognised the noise and fluctuations around our progress, excitement, boredom, frustration and revelation.

The past has bestowed upon us fundamental science with which to innovate and diverse cultures from which to draw inspiration. We must face uncertainty with action, in our societies and our economies. We will seek to quantify the unknown but not limit our considerations solely to what is clearly quantifiable. As individuals and together we will engineer our future. In our future as engineers, great rewards and great responsibilities lie in wait.

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