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Engineering And The Other America

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Ethical Responsibilities of Engineers in the World of Corporate Business / Engineering and Poverty

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.616.1 - 12.616.15



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Paper Authors

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George Catalano State University of New York-Binghamton

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Engineering and the Other America


In the present work, the growing awareness in engineering of the responsibility towards the poor is considered. The following approach is taken: a brief overview of the issues of poverty particularly in the U.S. is provided; and recent developments in engineering related to the issue of poverty are discussed. The purposes of the work are: to bring an awareness of the plight of the poor that live here in the United States; to point to some new efforts in engineering and engineering education that begin to address our responsibilities towards the poor; and to encourage a vigorous and ongoing conversation focused on our responsibilities as engineers and educators towards the poor.


Engineering and its product, technology, hold immense promise and unlimited potential for all of us who share our destinies on planet Earth. Each of us can imagine a time in the future at which all of the world’s dreaded diseases are eliminated, there is abundance for all and each of us can live our life to its maximum. No doubt it will be the problem solvers of society, the engineers, who will be called upon to get us to that point. The question then becomes will engineering as we presently know it enable humankind and all of creation to fulfill that dream? My response to that question is no, not as engineering is practiced today at the beginning of the 21st century. While engineering is a profession with a strong ethical dimension, and while we have explicitly stated in our various codes of conduct that we must hold paramount the public safety, there has been until very recently no reference to addressing two of the most important issues of our times – poverty and underdevelopment and environmental degradation. It is as if engineering as a profession is somehow excused from such deliberations or that if we serve our employers faithfully and professionally, it will somehow all work out in the end. I do not believe it will somehow work out in the end but rather believe that we, as engineers, need to change the way we envisage our profession. The present work will limit the discussion to the case of the poor within the U.S.

State of the Poor

We are confronted daily with growing evidence of the deteriorating health of the Earth’s ecosystem. Unfortunately, such evidence of environmental deterioration is only the tip of a much more dangerous problem: the growing inequities in wealth and income between countries and within countries, inequities that will generate enormous social unrest and pressure for change. Moreover who would deny the reality of starving people in Somalia, India, or other countries which are desperately trying to cope with millions of homeless, landless people? According to the most recent estimates, six billion people now exist and seven billion are expected by the year 2006, nearly eleven billion by 2045.

Catalano, G. (2007, June), Engineering And The Other America Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1595

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