Saturday, April 09, 2005

Communicating Engineering?

I listened to the first of this year's Reith lectures on BBC radio 4 a couple of days ago. Lord Broers is convinced of the triumph of technology. However, he deplores that 50% of British graduates wish to work in the media when they leave university, because the media still seem so hip while engineering does not. I smell a rat? No, I smell the continuation of the Two Cultures discussion, triggered by C.P. Snow in the late 50ies. Yes, there are problems of communication, not least because the sciences and the humanities respectively tend to self-select people with different brains and abilities.

However, there is another problem even graver than communication malfunction: the economy. Machinery must be written off, before new technologies can even be contemplated. Workers must be trained and clients found for new technology. This is expensive and the costs of it can be calculated. In many cases new technology is easier on the environment, but the costs of not implementing them can neither be calculated nor attributed to economic units very well.

If it is true that technology has brought us to the brink of global environmental catastrophe then it must jolly well do something to avert the impending doom. But technology must be implemented before it can do anything. Instead of droning on I shall - again - point out this overwhelming collection of new materials (as did treehugger). If you are dazed by the sheer mass of materials you can subscribe to the newsletter featuring the product of the week.

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