In one of my recent blogs I used the phrase “Tipping-Point” to describe the moment when the division of labor between humans and machines reached a critical point. When I wrote this I was thinking when there was an even 50-50 between people and machines. Yet, I’ve recently been thinking that maybe it doesn’t even have to reach that point to become irrevocable. In many cases, simply by creating a technology the harm is already done. Technology is a fine example of the idea behind Pandora’s box. Once a certain technology is “let-out” there is no going back. And perhaps this is the actual “tipping-point” that I’ve been trying to identify.
This brings up the question that Professor Best loves to ask. “Will we know we’ve gone too far, before we’ve gone too far?” (or something to that effect, the exact words escape me). The problem is, every time we invent something, there is a risk that it may be one step passed what we can manage, and we can’t seem resist temptation. So as an engineer what do we do? Do we stop inventing? To site Best once again in regards to the Brooklyn bridge, “the Brooklyn bridge was not built to cross the East river, rather simply because it had to be built.” I think this encapsulates part of the essence of humanity. We have a drive to invent, to achieve, and to understand. In this way, we struggle to resist these core desires. So if we deny ourselves invention, are we not denying an integral part of our humanity? Yet, if we keep inventing without reserve, are we setting ourselves on a collision course with our extinction?
As soon as I figure out this problem, I’ll let you all know. Right now though, I’ll just focus on passing my finals.
Trying to decide which classes to take as an IDEAS student can definitely be overwhelming. Everything could relate to IDEAS, so any class is really a viable option. Discussing the Brooklyn Bridge in the first-year seminar during the past two weeks, a topic that we covered was the role of art in engineering. The engineer who dreamed and enabled the creation of the Brooklyn Bridge was Roebling, a “Renaissance man” who could not dedicate himself to engineering alone. He was in a way what all of us hope to be, someone who integrated his passions in order to create something that he loved.
He went beyond the basic and cookie-cutter idea of a bridge only serving the simple function of moving people from point A to point B; he made the bridge an event, a monument, a feeling for everyone who experiences it. With this we discussed not only the purpose of monuments but the purpose of the engineer in creating them—creating something new to be admired, to challenge the “way things are” and imagine a different reality.
Professor Best stressed the thought that each engineer should have to take a class like art, philosophy, or psychology—something out of the “realm” of engineering that would in effect actually help us with the duty of being an engineer. Its surprising how many avenues and implications things have, that nothing is one sided, and that changing your perspective and looking through different lenses can really open up your eyes to new and important aspects of life.
This week in the first year seminar we watched a documentary on the Brooklyn Bridge and discussed its role in society.
If you want to join in the discussion, comment on the post below
Question 1: What is the world’s most durable monument?
Question 2: Why does the Brooklyn bridge resonate with us?
Question 3: Do we have great symbols of technology anymore?
Question 4: Why do we need symbols of technology?