Implications of Engineering in Society

Puja Karmakar

Engineering is one of the key influences that shape our society. Engineers don’t just work with machines, designs and electronics, they use math and science to provide innovation. Inventions that shape our society and improve the way we live and work. This means that engineers have a responsibility and also a great opportunity to ensure that they have a positive influence on society.

An engineering society is a professional organization for engineers of various disciplines. Some are Umbrella type organizations which accept many different disciplines, while others are discipline-specific. There are many student-run engineering societies, commonly at universities or technical colleges.

Engineer arises from the accepted realization that technology has a significant and rapidly increasing influence on the evolution of society. Engineers play a major role in the development and application of technology and with this role comes a certain responsibility for the direction in which society develops. The scientists develop knowledge and understanding of the physical universe. Science is the pursuit of knowledge in its purest sense without any concern to the needs of society.

Engineering connects pure science to society. It is a combination of both. Unlike science, in Engineering the environment in which engineers plan, design, build, manufacture and operate continually changes and the role of the engineers has been fraught with challenges and uncertainties. Throughout history, engineers have though creativity, analysis and pure guts met these challenges with success and unfortunately failures too.

Engineering turns science and technology into something tangible and useful to society. It is applied in creating various structures, home appliances and other infrastructures and equipment, which make human lives safe and convenient. From Nov. 29 to Dec. 2, Kyoto will host the world engineering Conference and Convention 2015, in which engineers from around the world gather to discuss the importance of engineering and showcase their technologies.

Engineering is a profession in which scientific knowledge and mathematics are used and experimented with to develop ways that benefit mankind, making it extremely important to society for several reasons. It encompasses a whole range of industries that could include on-site, practical construction work as well as evaluating safety systems from an office. They use the knowledge they have within a specific industry to make things work and solve problems, whether this is with transport, medicine, entertainment, Space or the environment.

The health industry has hugely benefitted from engineering. Advances in medical technology are solely down to engineers, and without it, doctors would not be able to treat patients the way they do today; with fantastic success rates. The improvement of medical technology has meant that the discovery of illnesses and treatment has helped to save and improve the lives of many people. Advances in technology, engineers have also allowed us to build satellites and machines that help us to understand the society live and shape our lives daily.

Whilst on the subject of technology, the way we communicate has also vastly improved due to engineering. We can get in touch with people at any time of the day. This has greatly improved the way we do business and how we talk to our friends, family and strangers daily. 

Stream engines, jet engineers and aeroplanes are all down to hard work from engineers, and it has allowed businesses to work smarter and faster than ever before. Improvements to travel have changed the way humans connect, opening trades for business and allowing us to literally travel to the other side of the planet in a mere 24 hours.

Visiting space may have been a mere dream in the past, but not anymore. The international space station is the largest and most complex science undertaking ever. It allows scientists and engineers from all over the planet to come together and conduct research that cannot be done elsewhere, finding answers to queries that have been unquestioned for years. The great thing is that engineering is continuing to affect society in a great and beneficial way.

Only rarely do engineers interact directly with society, free from any considerations of their ties with industry, and the products and services society see and sometimes associates with engineers are presented by industry. A couple of decades ago, London Winner wrote (winner 1995); “one might suppose that the technical professions offer greater latitude in dealing with the moral and political dimensions of technical choice. Indeed, the codes of engineering societies mention the higher purposes of serving humanity and the public good, while universities often offer special ethics courses for students majoring in science and engineering.

Engineering in respond to a societal purpose in the measure that such a purpose is well articulated. However, even if well-articulated, social purpose may be detrimental to society and human-kind in general. Engineering as a force of society, can and should intervene in correcting a social purpose it perceives as detrimental. Historically, this has been very difficult to do. Engineering has tended to respond to the social system in which it is embedded: in market economies, it has made unbridled consumerism possible, and in authoritarian regimes, it has provided the technological means that reinforce the power of the regime.

Many engineering developments of this century with immense impacts on our lives have not been accompanied by realistic engineering views of those impacts on the social fabric or the environment. An important point in looking at the social function of engineering is how society makes engineering possible, a complex feedback situation emerges.

The artefacts extend the power and reach of society and the individual. Society, in turn, through its organizations and demands, makes possible the development of complex artefacts and simulates their constant technical evolution and diffusion. Today, to talk about the impact of engineering on society is meaningless without also talking about the impact of society on engineering, and how it shapes the role of engineering.

Engineering affects virtually every aspect of our society and engages a substantial set of the population in carrying out engineer’s plans and designs. It can best carry out its social purpose when it is involved in the formulation of the response to a social need, rather than just being called to provide a quick technological fix.

Author is a student of  Environmental Science and Engineering at Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University, Trishal, Mymensingh – 2224, Bangladesh


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