Ignorance is Bliss but Knowledge is Power

By Haroula T.

“Ignorance is bliss” is a term commonly used in daily life to explain why people are apathetic to certain situations. The phrase comes to mind when thinking about what I have learned this semester in ENME467. As engineers, we spend most of our time learning about the importance of innovation and invention, but rarely do we learn about the repercussions, the unintended consequences, of these innovations and inventions. We are so focused on learning the numbers, the code, and the calculations that we tend to forget what is at the heart of these inventions, people. The reason that I originally chose engineering was so that I could work on making the world a better and safer place for all people, but in most of my classes the word people is rarely mentioned. I have now learned how imperative it is to bring engineering back to being a human-centered field that focuses on predicting and mitigating the unintended consequences of engineering at the source of the invention. Engineers can no longer (nor could they ever, really) afford to be ignorant to the unintended results of their feats, but rather need to learn how to be better equipped to handle them moving forward.

Throughout the semester, we had a variety of speakers from different fields come and talk to us about several topics. The talks that stood out to me the most were “Future of Engineering” by Professor Jungho Kim, and “Engineering and Culture” by Professor Michael Pecht. In Dr. Kim’s lecture, we discussed the rates of how the world is changing. I appreciated his lecture because he gave us a perspective on why we need to be looking for more sustainable, long-term solutions, a perspective not always mentioned in other traditional engineering courses. He also discussed the impact of emerging technologies on the global human. It was a bit frightening to talk about the idea that humans may invent themselves into irrelevance, but also an important idea that becomes more possible the quicker modern technologies are innovated. On a different note, Dr. Pecht discussed the importance of understanding cultural differences in the face of innovation. This was my favorite lecture, as I have a minor in international engineering and enjoy exploring these ideas. As engineers, it is easy to get fooled thinking that a product that does well in the United States will automatically do well in an unfamiliar cultural environment, but this is often not the case. Additionally, without understanding the differences between cultures, business negotiations may be confusing or unsuccessful a best. With the rate of global connectedness increasing, especially in the technology field, I truly believe that all engineering majors would benefit from having to take a class on global and cross-cultural communication.

Before ENME467, I also had little knowledge of nonprofits, philanthropy in engineering, and the process at which a grant is awarded. I now see the importance of the work that technical non-profits are doing for society and for the environment. It was interesting to be on the decision-side of a grant that has the power to help an organization make a difference. It was difficult to narrow down the organizations and make a decision, but in the end it was a unique experience that as students we had the opportunity to discuss our ideas, debate projects, and ultimately be the deciding factor in where $10,000 went.

Ignorance may be bliss, but with courses like ENME467, budding engineers now have the knowledge arming them to better avoid and mitigate the unintended consequences of engineering.

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