The Effect of Technological Advancement: Just Because Something Can Be Done, Should It Be Done?

Charles Fleddermann, Associate Dean, Electrical/Computer Engineering, University of New Mexico
May 14th, 2002, 7:30 to 9:00 pm
Morton 235
Public lecture & Miniseminar
Cosponsored with OU ACM and the Athens Area Linux Users’ Group

Abstract

One of the perks of being an engineer is the opportunity to work on cutting-edge technologies. Indeed, this is what keeps many engineering professionals excited about their work. This sense of excitement is conveyed by the media, where the emphasis is often on the novelty of new technologies, and rarely (at first), on the values associated with the technology. New and advancing technologies are presented as being of great value to society, or at worst, value neutral. It is only much later, after problems have arisen, that the value of a new technology is examined. Of course, most new technologies bring both benefits and unforeseen problems. For example, cell phones have brought people the ability to communicate from nearly any location on earth, but have also been implicated in increased rates of automobile accidents and increased levels of stress as it becomes possible (and therefore necessary!) to work everywhere and all the time.

In this talk I will look at some of the technologies that have changed the world both for better and for worse. Examples will include the development of the internet and some of the technologies the internet has spawned, such as free sharing of music and video files. I will then develop ideas regarding the responsibility of engineers for ensuring that new technologies are used wisely, and ultimately will try to answer the question of whether some new technologies should be developed at all.

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