SAN JOSE, Calif. Former vice president Al Gore made an impassioned plea to embedded designers here to have the courage to answer the call of "the moral imperative of our day": climate change.
In an hour-long keynote spiced with anecdotes from his life and political career, Gore asked his audience at the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) here to think what future generations will ask they did about the climate crisis that he said could be as little as "ten years away from becoming irreversible."
He said embedded designers can do much to reverse the accelerating pace of the causes of global warming and to apply "moral authority" to their designs in order to overcome the climate challenges for the long term. "You have to ask different questions [when designing] that will take advantage of the opportunities presented by the crisis," he said.
Noting that the Chinese ideogram for "crisis" includes symbols for both danger and opportunity, Gore challenged designers to develop system architectures that have at aim for efficiency and conservation from the start.
Gore listed three long-term effects on the climate crisis: population, technology and mindset. "For the most part, the effect of population on our climate is balancing itself out over many years, while technology has dramatically accelerated the rate of which the climate has been affected over the past fifty years," he said. ''Yet the worse culprit is the way we think about the crisis."
He postulated that "we need to have a much finer-grain mix of money and intelligence in generating our public policies that affect this crisis."
Designers need to take a fresh look at the systems they design and redesign the "grossly inefficient systems running our energy economy". New architectures in embedded design will resolve some of the shortcomings, said Gore.
He mentioned that with more intelligence being embedded in our everyday lives designers need to think about how to "apply the principles of parallel processing to alleviate inefficient computing paradigms."
Gore tied the need to find solutions for climatic changes to the challenges for encouraging the next generation of engineers and scientists to enter the industry. "We are very fast becoming less competitive globally because youngsters do not feel engineering is a worthwhile profession to pursue," said Gore.
"You can make a difference by showing that engineering can change the way the world crisis can be averted--only if we can raise the importance of this endeavor to the wake-up call Sputnik [first space satellite launched by the Soviet Union] had for America in the 1960s," he said.
"Once the possible threat was understood, President [John F.]Kennedy's goal of landing a man on the moon was achieved fairly quickly," he said. "It is a moral imperative that brings the thinking around to do something about a threat--you can play that role every day in your design work and thereby show the next generation of engineers that they can become part of something larger than themselves.
"We will find our moral authority," said Gore, "by asking different questions from those we are used to asking." Gore cited the "greatest generation" of veterans of World War II, who defeated fascism in Europe and in the East, and found the moral authority to build up Europe under the Marshall Plan. "That's the kind of great thinking that needs to be applied to the crisis of our generation in order to alleviate this crisis for our children and their children."