OSPE - The Voice - June 2018 - 28

FEATURE

TECHNOLOGICAL STEWARDSHIP

ACTIVATING THE HIGHER POTENTIAL OF THE ENGINEERING
COMMUNITY TO CONTRIBUTE TO SOCIETY

By Arlene Williams, Director, Strategic Communications and Engagement, Engineering Change Lab

F

acebook scandals, unsafe drinking
water in North American
communities and rapid advancements
in digital technologies such as artificial
intelligence - the media and our dinner
table conversations are brimming with
stories related to the role of technology
in society. While many of these stories
focus on problems, some also point to
positive impacts, such as connecting
remote communities to education and
the potential for blockchain to reduce
inequality.
The speed of technological change
makes it increasingly difficult to keep
track of all the new developments and
their potential impacts - and points
to the pivotal role the engineering
community must take to ensure the
impacts of technology are ultimately
positive for humanity. In collaboration
with key members of the Canadian
engineering community, we're calling
28

THE VOICE

June 2018

this leadership technological stewardship.
In current usage, the word
"technology" largely refers to digital
technology, such as mobile phones
or artificial intelligence. But taking a
broader lens, technology can be seen
as anything humans create to mediate
our relationship with nature - not just
computers and phones, but chairs and
bridges and cars and countless other
items that help people solve problems and
live in the world safely and comfortably.
With this broader lens, two things
become clearer. First, since technology
is inherently aimed at addressing human

needs or desires, it is intrinsically
connected to society. Second, since
the engineering community works at
the epicentre of technological change,
it is uniquely positioned to influence
technology and to ensure it is as
beneficial to humanity as possible.
In some ways, these ideas represent
both the starting point and a distillation
of the thinking of the Engineering
Change Lab (ECL), a collaborative
platform that brings together leaders
from across the engineering community.
The Lab was launched a little over three
years ago, when Engineers Canada and
Engineers Without Borders Canada
joined to spark a conversation in the
Canadian engineering community.
Through their respective activities,
the two organizations had the strong
sense that, even considering the
many prominent achievements by the
engineering community, some systemic



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