Engineering Responsibility

We recently watched a movie in the first-year seminar called Manufactured Landscapes, showing the destruction of 13 historic cities in China in order to build the Three Gorges Dam. In my opinion the worst/most bothersome line in that film was “I’m not in charge of this”, which was a worker’s annoyed response when asked if the citizens cared about their homes being destroyed. In order to complete this great technological feat, the homes of a million people got destroyed and those people had to be relocated.

Was that worth it? What is the cost of progress?

And even if the feat should be completed just for engineering’s sake, shouldn’t the workers at least acknowledge or take into account the implications their actions have for the average person? People shouldn’t all have to be survivors of technology, and maybe this cost of progress should have been a discussion.

As aspiring engineers, these are the types of questions and subjects that we need to think about, as that could be us doing this to people. And for what? What kind of progress and impact do we wish to have as engineers, and how can we make sure that we understand our responsibility?

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