Friends, followers and readers: Thanks for your comments. Here is a recent sampling.
Re: “Engineering social justice,” Berkeley Engineer, spring 2014
I was extremely happy to learn that an “engineering in society” course was still being taught at Cal. Looking back on my career and personal evolution, it’s that course I took back in 1978 that I remember the most. It shaped my thinking about what it was to be an engineer, yes, but more importantly, a just and positively contributing member of society. At the time, this topic was rarely taught in harder STEM paths across the country, and I was very proud that Cal had the foresight to offer it. Engineers gravitate toward the profession because of their love of things, but an engineer’s true purpose is to translate scientific discoveries into societal benefits. For this, one must have not only a sharp intellect and a pragmatic outlook, but also open eyes, mind and especially heart. As pointed out in the piece, the “control volume” for any engineering problem must include its environment and its people.
—Shaun Simpkins, B.S.’79 EE, via e-mail
Re: “The last firewall,” Berkeley Engineer, spring 2014
In the last issue, the juxtaposition of an article on mind-reading technology and one on social justice was not likely lost on readers. While EECS professor Jan Rabaey pointed to the need to develop technical solutions sooner than later, what’s missing is a broader conversation about whether mind-reading technology is something we want to develop at all. We have a culture that promotes and rewards the heroic principal investigator who pushes the limits of science like Prometheus bringing the gift of fire back to the clan. Only too late do we understand and react to the unintended effects of these discoveries, such as greenhouse gases, nanoparticles, endocrine disruptors and GMOs. The university promotes a myriad of micro changes to our complex system, and we as a society are left reeling with the large systemic changes that emerge as a consequence. Indeed, when have we, in 500 years of the Enlightenment, ever decided against technical advancement?
—Tse-Sung Wu, B.S.’89 ME, via e-mail