The Tipping-Point

creativity-819371_960_720In 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.

 

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‘Tis the Season

Every semester there is this wonderful thing that happens. Perhaps one of the greatest things of all. I am referring of course to Lehigh registration!

With the end of the semester close on our heels, we have to start thinking about the future; that is, the second semester. As an IDEAS student, this can be one of the most fun/painful experiences you’ll ever experience. On the one hand, looking up courses that sound interesting and that you’d actually want to take can be invigorating. On the other side of the spectrum, the actual registration process… well… let’s just say it’s downright painful. When I first came to Lehigh, I dropped my entire schedule and built it from scratch so I have some experience in this. Essentially, it consists of a student making a list of the courses they want to take, and then rushing around like a madman to make sure no one else takes your ever-so-valuable seats.

This process is further hindered by the fact that many IDEAS students overload their schedule (at Lehigh the max credits per semester is 18, overloading require special permission and can go as high as 21 credits). We also often deal with pre-requisite overrides so we can avoid taking some intro level courses. All this in mind, registering guarantees to make you miserable for at least 24 hours. That being said, I still love the whole prospect and can’t wait to get officially registered. Brace yourself second semester- I am on the move.

Science Fiction

In my spare time, I was rummaging through the little nooks and crannies of the internet and stumbled across a place called Masdar city. Here is a city that seems to have been dragged out of the pages of science fiction. In the year 2006, someone thought it would be a good idea to plan out a completely green city with no carbon footprint. Funny story, they actually managed to translate this dream to reality. Masdar City is an $18,000,000,000 example of the future for humanity. It is located near Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates with a current population of about 1,000 people.  Over the next few years it is estimated that the population will rise to near 10,000 people. A small number compared to other major cities, but in the same way that a tortoise will outrun a hare, Masdar will endure.

What does this mean for the future of humanity? There has been growing concern about our reliance on fossil fuels and non-renewable resources. This city is proof that there are effective alternatives. Conversely, this city is also shows the steep cost behind such a venture. $18 billion is not exactly pocket money and with the general crowd opposed to excess expense, a shift to these cities is still distant. Masdar City is like a star in the night sky; it is a bright glimmer in an ever-expanding sea of darkness.

This unmodified picture is from: "Abu Dhabi City vom Fort Qasr Al Hosn" by Bernardo Löwenstein - Bernardo Löwenstein. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abu_Dhabi_City_vom_Fort_Qasr_Al_Hosn.JPG#/media/File:Abu_Dhabi_City_vom_Fort_Qasr_Al_Hosn.JPG Author: Bernardo Löwenstein
This unmodified picture is from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abu_Dhabi_City_vom_Fort_Qasr_Al_Hosn.JPG Author: Bernardo Löwenstein

A New Semester

As a second semester freshman, I am already delving into my intended major. The biggest asset of IDEAS Program is that it concentrates on making you proficient in your area of learning. That does not just include what classes you have to take to get a degree but what classes will allow you to become a more well rounded, holistic engineer. This semester I chose to enroll in Beginner Spoken Mandarin II, Glaciers and Glaciation, The Science of Environmental Issues and Natural Hazards: Impacts and Consequences along with my prerequisites. It is a fantastic feeling going into a classroom and being passionate about what you are learning. IDEAS teaches you that any class you take will help your major. If your majoring in Environmental Engineering but take a psychology class, it will help you understand people which will help you to become a better engineer. IDEAS is a privilege to be part of and if you want to learn more go to

http://www.lehigh.edu/engineering/academics/undergraduate/majors/ideas.html