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The author of the classic The Existential Pleasures of Engineering now offers an exciting look at how engineering and engineers can shape the future of our society. Florman issues a clarion call to society, stating that individuals must awaken to the reality that the continuing quality of life is dependent upon increasingly creative technological solutions to the world's problems.
What the world needs most, Florman begins, is affordable energy sources, new materials, ample food and water, and a clean environment. Technology can help provide these. But since the quality of our lives depends on the quality of our engineering, we need to attract the best and brightest people into the profession. Nor must we allow technology to rush blindly ahead, Florman continues; we should avoid bleak modernity (as exemplified, apparently, by Star Trek—probably the oddest brickbat it's received), reject cultural homogenization, protect the environment, and resist recriminations for past errors. All well and good, though could not this last proposition be wielded by the unscrupulous to evade responsibility? Elsewhere, Florman rightly points out that many of our technological success stories are described as "science"; somehow, this becomes "engineering" only when things go wrong: Witness the entire NASA space program. Florman argues persuasively that in order for engineering and technology to be applied more effectively to the problems that beset the world, political perceptions and public awareness must improve dramatically. When discussing his fellow engineers, Florman is brutally honest but far less reassuring. He admits that engineers are often overly meticulous, lack political savvy and professional pride, and tend to be a humorless bunch; the few engineers to hold prominent public offices—Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter, John Sununu—were not successes.
Thus his contention that more engineers should involve themselves in political processes and policy discussions, unfortunately, self-destructs.
"Gracefully written...refreshing and highly infectious enthusiasm...imaginatively engineered." —The New York Times Book Review
"An engaging short book that is accessible, and frequently enchanting, to the nonspecialist reader." —The New Yorker
"Ought to be on the required-reading lists of engineering schools, for students, faculty, and alumni." —Engineering Education
|1||The End of Complacency||11|
|3||Bright Aspects of Technology||49|
|4||War, Peace, and Freedom||67|
|5||Ambivalence and Doubt||81|
|6||Image and Reflection||99|
|7||What Is an Engineer?||117|
|8||Faults and Foibles||139|
|12||Toward the New Millennium||201|