A lot of what goes on in the IDEAS seminar deals with technocracies; societies that become overrun by technology.
My problem with this? I think in some ways, we are the earth, and technocracies are Halley’s Comet.
As humans, as people, as engineers, we like to fix things. Design them and redesign them until they are better and better and better and then suddenly… what is left for us to do? What is our purpose? Suddenly we ARE a dystopian technocracy. Then, as shown in many dystopian societies, one thing will happen: the masses will rebel. They will rebel, and they will try to destroy all that has to do with the society they so despised and then… we are back at square one.
So, how do we break the cycle?
Here’s my thought. The world today is rigid; it does its best to keep us on the straight and narrow. To get an engineering degree, or any degree for that matter, there is a very strict set of courses you have to take. These courses, at least to some extent, start to narrow everyone’s thinking in a certain direction. Engineers get in the habit of thinking “How do we make this more efficient? How do we make it better?” and this kind of thought can be what gears us towards a technocracy. If these are the only questions we ask, we can only move in that one direction.
The solution to this, I believe, is going to be a combination of the arts, and the humanities, into engineering. Because really, why do we need humanities? We shouldn’t, strictly on the basis of our needs, but we do, based on the fact that we are human. If we integrate humanities into engineering, will it keep us from this downfall? Maybe engineers should stop trying to make machines do more and more and more in terms of manufacturing. Let the masses or the people maintain the machines, let us hold our place in that respect. Maybe, just maybe, engineers should be thinking, how do I create such and such an experience for people? For instance, maybe instead of creating autopilot systems for computers, and removing the pilot, maybe an aerospace engineer should work to redesign the versatility of the craft; make it more compatible with the pilot. Instead of taking the freedom from the pilot and giving the aircraft a specific guideline of “get from A to B”, they should give the freedom back to the pilot. Or maybe they should re-engineer something like the first plane, but do it in such a way that it can be more accessible to the average person. Because who wouldn’t want their own glider, their own chance to feel the wind on their face?
Is this whole idea feasible? I don’t have a clue. I’m pretty sure the economics would fall through in today’s world without hesitation. But maybe, someday, it could be like this? Should it be? Would that break the cycle?