The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century

Research-Technology Management, November-December 2004 | Go to article overview

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century


The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century. National Academy of Engineering, Washington, D.C.; 2004; 104 pp. (6x9) available from The National Academies Press, 2101 Constitution Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005: (800-624-6242 or 202-334-3313, online at www.nap.edu)

This report is the result of a National Academy of Engineering initiative that attempts to prepare for the future of engineering by asking, "What will or should engineering be like in 2020? Will it be a reflection of the engineering of today and its past growth patterns or will it be fundamentally different? Most importantly, can the engineering profession play a role in shaping its own future?"

Because precise predictions of the future are difficult at best, the committee adopted the technique of scenario-based planning. The benefit of the scenario approach was that it eliminated the need to develop a consensus view of a single future and opened thinking to include multiple possibilities.

Specific scenarios considered in this project were (1) The Next Scientific Revolution, (2) The Biotechnology Revolution in a Societal Context, (3) The Natural World Interrupts the Technology Cycle, and (4) Global Conflict or Globalization? The story form of each scenario is presented in an Appendix. Each in its own way informed the deliberations about possibilities that can shape the role that engineering will play in the future.

The body of the report begins in Chapter 1 with a review designed to set the stage for likely future technological changes and challenges that will impact the world and the engineering profession.

Chapter 2 addresses the societal, geopolitical and professional contexts within which engineering and its new technologies will exist. …

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