Rich - i went to a private college and tuition was low enough then that I could make enough with a summer job to pay a year's tuition. Why is a college ed so expensive that the grads are virtually indentured servants for the next 20 yrs? it is due to corporatizing higher ed? making it a profit center and not a public good, the best investment in the long-term success of the community.
ales, a good teacher will be able to analyze a student's results and determine where and why they are having trouble with a concept, then address that specific problem. Not sure the software can do that yet. Also, a teacher can infer where a student might benefit from expansion outside the defined curriculum and give guidance. Not sure software can do that, either.
Janine, do you really think that the bulk of funds for colleges come from their R&D monies? Not at all sure I agree. For some schools, perhaps. But athletics are a big budget contributor for many others, as Tom alludes to.
Tom. and your point is? Should college be non profit and dedicated to teaching rather than keeping itself funded? I can agree with that. Will it happen in reality? A different question. And if it is publically funded, won't it have to conform to public opinion? THat may not always be a good thing.
Susan, I agree that online education is probably the way to go in the future. It allows a single lecture to serve millions rather than dozens. But people still will need interactive guidance to develop their skills. Teaching becomes more of a mentoring task than a lecture task.
Tom, an excellent question. But then, if the college doesnt make money, it cannot continue operating. The first priority of any beauocracy is to maintain the beauocracy so that it can carry our its mission, which is always the lower priority. Colleges are no exception, unless their maintenance is assured through other means.
RichQ, Maybe the answer is continuing education or the Internet. Internet has a lot of free education on it now. I do think engineers are curious about the world and are usually passionate about finding out how things work, so they may be inclined to learn broadly on their own. Some are just heads down and not interested.
The problem with Tom's question is that it assumes a zero sum game. There are four years in a degree program. How do we allocate the time to humanities versus STEM? I suggest that we make engineering a five or six year program so that there is room for all.
Rich, what prompted me to raise this question in the first place is that many colleges and Univs are cutting back or cutting out humanities programs, my own alma mater recently shut down the theatre dept and demolished the theatre to build a new law school - no doubt to address America's critical shortage of lawyers.
@Tom, adding humanities questioning to the engineering curriculum is not a bad idea, I agree. But, having taught at the college level, I can tell you that a good tech writring class seems to serve our future tech/science folks better than one on the english romantic poets. I think RichQ is right on with engineering ethics though. Make it RELEVENT.
My undergraduate university (WPI) was way ahead of the curve when it came to humanities. We had to take five related humanities course and write a paper on a related subject as a degree requirement. That started in the early 1970s and continues today.
@Duane. Exactly. Who defines what is moral? And without a definition, how can we inform our technology decisions with moral concerns. Ultimately, it must either be an individual decision or a societal one (enacted through laws)
agreed, these are timeless questions - usually asked in the liberal arts or lit or philosophy. my question is, why dont we ask them in engineering curricula? English poet Shelley said, Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. And they were in 1820. Today, tho, engineers are the makers of our digital world. dont they need a broader view of the world to best exercise that responsibiilty than just enjoying the next IPO?
Morality is also a relative term. One engineer may find it moral and to the benefit of society to design a location monitoring device to keep track of children at all times. Another may consider it moral to extend that technology to monitor every person. Other engineers may find the idea a reprehnsible invasion of privacy. Who decides where the line between moral and immoral lies?
@susan, agreed. this debate is not new. The desire to control technology is why Prometheus is chained to a rock with a vulture eating his liver, though. Was he a hero to mankind or a villian who deserved the punishment?
bartj, thinking broader is not a bad thing at all. In fact, it is probably the best thing. And everyone should be involved in the discussions, but alas not everyone has a broad enough viewpoint and narrow minds can pervert the conversation.
I think that the discussions of potential abuses of a technology need to occur at all levels of a society. Not just a ruling elite. This would be the point of having humanities as part of technical education. Thinking broader is not a bad thing.
Tom, Who is to control the user? Good question. Who watches the watcher? All we can do is collectively decide what is right and proper and see to it that abuse is prevented or punished. Or make sure it is not profitable, anyway. And even then, is our collective will correct?
@Susan, the golden rule works best when all follow it. If someone else is being totally self-indulgent, they can easily overwhelm those following the golden rule. There is also the silver rule (do unto others as they have done unto you) and the iron rule (do unto others before they do unto you). and all three are operant in the world. So how do we respond? If I follow the golden rule and I run into opposition from someone following the iron rule, I will be destroyed.
The debate about using technology for war or spying should be part of the college or better yet, high school curriculum. What class it would be in? well...some humanities class. I am willing to wager it's part of the curriculum at West Point.
bartj, we certainly should look at the potential abuses of a technology, but should that prevent us from developing it if there are also potential benefits? Develop the technology, and control the user.
@susan, but does that need to be part of a college curriculum? And define "proper." For those who feel that a narrowly-targeted attack (as opposed to carpet bombing a neighborhood) is a proper use of the technology, given the assumption that an attack of some kind is necessary. It's not the drone that needs discussion, its the use of deadly force.
in 1959, English scientist-novelist CP Snow wrote about 'the two cultures' of humanities and sci/tech that never talked to each other. he said the former was dominant and they needed to be in balance. today the sci/tech model is dominant, but they still need to be in balance.
Richq, I agree that drones are not totally evil. They are very "cool" from an engineering perspective. But without one getting to explore the social / moral implications of such technology (good and bad) then we shortchange ourselves and our society.
About drones....it's a do-unto others as you would have done unto you: --- the golden rule. I don't want someone in another country dropping bombs from drones on me, so maybe my country should stop dropping bombs via drones on other countries. It's just a matter of time before the tech can be turned against you. There's a link there between a moral/religious tenet and the technology if i ever saw one.
I attended a panel session on Tuesday with several ECE professors. In many ways, technical education has been turned upside down. Today, students do proejcts first, then learn the they behind it. I even see that in the HS cirriculum where my daugheter is taking physics before algebra. They teach physics to HS freshmen now.
bartj, drones are also good for aerial surveys and finding lost hikers and plane crashes in the wilderness. Just because someone abuses a technology doesnt mean the technology is bad. And how can an engineer decide the ethics of something whose ultimate use he cannot know?
@measurementblues... I think we need to be careful about how view those CEO calls for more engineers. They have ALWAYS been not about more engineers (we increase engineering productivity every year). It's been about cheaper (i.e. younger) engineers.
In terms of morality, I think that sometimes curiosity and the thrill of discovery overrules the potential moral implications. Again, having a broader understanding of the world can help to guide curiosity along lines of better ultimate morality.
Funny, though. Best humanities educcation I got was in high school. Took an interdisciplinary course that blended literature, art, history, critical thinking, and composition. THe first three were presented chronologically, so we could see how they evolved together, rather than focussing on specific genres or eras. Made history a living thing, not dry dates and facts.
its deeper than STEM, Rich. college is becoming so expensive that it has to offer a good job immediately, and with even college professors being turned into freelance workers without tenure how will the quality of the educators stay up.
I agree, Duane. Humanities help you write better in your own language -- My impression of the engineer/programmer authors I've worked with is they are often very well read and have wide-ranging interests.
Tom, the focus is increasing on STEM for economic reasons. No one wants to have a 5- or 6-year degree program for engineering, but there is too much that needs to be learned. So they cut the stuff that does not directly relate to the field of study.
Personally, I think being well rounded, as in humanities and language skills in addition to strong technical skills, leads to better designs than does just technical skills alone. It helps by putting design into a social / application context.
We have religion and that doesn't always help us act morally though it may help enourage some people to act morally. Others use it to the opposite effect. So programming morality into some device....I don't know
I think humanities is an essential part of higher education, regardless of your degree program. They help us understand and thus interact with other humans and society in productive and beneficial ways. Everybody can benefit from that, engineer or other.
Caleb, but that happens naturally, doesnt it? Someone comes up with a device or a scheme, and the rest of the world figures out how to use it to best advantage (or stop using it). If everyone were following an enlightened path, then the use would be for the greater good. But self-seeking individuals use it differently. It's not the technology's developer fault, it's the user's.
I don't think we can predict with any kind of certainty. I think maybe we need an approach that is like a 2nd wave of innovation. The first wave is the creation (driven by corporate profits usually), then the 2nd wave can be the rest of the world figuring hout how to make this new thing a humanitarian tool
Just read your blog for this chat. First question that popped up for me was, do we have the tools for accurately predicting the moral or humanistic impact of our technologies? I dont think we do, so trying to temper our technologies on such grounds would be futile and possibly counterproductive.
it's not tools that are the problem, its what we do or dont do with them that needs more discussion. are you familiar with the Ring Ceremony in Canada - engineering grads get a ring made of steel from a bridge that collapsed killing scores. its to remind them thru their worklives that logical calculations wrongly made have social consequences.
NASA's Orion Flight Software Production Systems Manager Darrel G. Raines joins Planet Analog Editor Steve Taranovich and Embedded.com Editor Max Maxfield to talk about embedded flight software used in Orion Spacecraft, part of NASA's Mars mission. Live radio show and live chat. Get your questions ready.
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