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The Introspective Engineer [NOOK Book]


The profession of engineering is rarely the topic of serious public discussion. Multimedia, virtual reality, information superhighway-these are the buzzwords of the day. But real engineers, the people who conceive of computers and oversee their manufacture, the people who design and build information systems, cars, bridges, and airplanes, labor in obscurity. There are no engineering heroes, and we as a society are poorer for this.

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The Introspective Engineer

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The profession of engineering is rarely the topic of serious public discussion. Multimedia, virtual reality, information superhighway-these are the buzzwords of the day. But real engineers, the people who conceive of computers and oversee their manufacture, the people who design and build information systems, cars, bridges, and airplanes, labor in obscurity. There are no engineering heroes, and we as a society are poorer for this.

Like Florman's landmark book, The Existential Pleasures of Engineering, The Introspective Engineer is a clarion call to society. We must awaken to the reality that the quality of human life depends on increasingly creative technological solutions to the problems we face. We need cleaner, more economical engines, faster computers, more power, and a healthier planet if we are to survive. It is engineers who will lead us to this future.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Florman (a New York City civil engineer) departs from the stereotypical image of a socially maladjusted engineer, suggesting that engineering is central to society, but woefully unsung. After all, who conceives the computers, the information systems, cars, airplanes, and bridges on which we rely? In this series of essays, Florman responds to our culture's demands for creative technological solutions and weaves this into the moral and social problems that fit within the constraints of time, materials, and money--the engineer's challenges. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Gilbert Taylor
Florman addresses either popular perceptions of technology or the state of the engineering profession that produces it. We tend to be schizophrenic about technology: a Luddite mentality competes with amazed admiration for what sophisticated machines can do. In these varied essays, Florman tilts strongly in favor of admiration, believing that although technology creates difficulties, as in ecological degradation, it remains the solution. Further, he takes issue with antitechnologists, often poets writing of "dark Satanic mills," and wonders why engineers are never heroes of novels. In actuality, engineers -- even those who have revolutionized our lives -- labor in anonymity (can you name the inventor of the integrated circuit, Florman asks), which piques Florman's mulling of the engineer's absence from popular culture, except as a figure to fear. In another piece on the personality type of engineers and the poor politicians they make (remember Hoover and Carter?), Florman concludes that they make good idealists and can improve people's lives far better than can any crusading lawyer. A sampler bound to give students considering the career a perspective beyond the dry facts.
Kirkus Reviews
More soothing technological reassurances from writer-engineer Florman (Blaming Technology, 1981, etc.), here maintaining that we need more and better technological "fixes," not fewer, and pleading for more engineers to become involved in running things.

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.

From the Publisher
"An urbane, witty intellectually far-ranging, large-spirited hymn to homo faber." —The Wall Street Journal

"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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466853263
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 9/24/2013
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 256
  • File size: 352 KB

Meet the Author

Samuel C. Florman, a civil engineer, is a principal in a major New York-area construction company. In addition to scores of articles, Mr. Florman has written The Civilized Engineer, Blaming Technology, and his classic, The Existential Pleasures of Engineering. He lives outside New York City.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
I Engineering
1 The End of Complacency 11
2 Allaying Apprehensions 27
3 Bright Aspects of Technology 49
4 War, Peace, and Freedom 67
5 Ambivalence and Doubt 81
6 Image and Reflection 99
II Engineers
7 What Is an Engineer? 117
8 Faults and Foibles 139
9 Doing Good 151
10 Leadership 165
11 Education 181
12 Toward the New Millennium 201
Coda 219
Acknowledgments 221
Notes 223
Index 235
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