Salt Lake City, Utah
June 20, 2004
June 20, 2004
June 23, 2004
9.866.1 - 9.866.10
Life-centered Design – A Paradigm for Engineering in the 21st Century
Andrew S. Lau The Pennsylvania State University
The engineering field, particularly engineering education, is in need of a new paradigm. We need a vision of engineering that encompasses traditional technical competence with the enlarged scope of social responsibility and ecological awareness. There have been significant developments in this direction, including the concept of sustainability, the latest engineering accreditation outcomes, ethics canons in some engineering disciplines, the field of industrial ecology, and the concept of biomimicry. Yet it is unlikely that incremental curricular changes can provide for engineers that are broadly educated, socially responsible, and ecologically grounded. This paper presents a vision for a new paradigm for engineering, starting with sustainability but going beyond it to emphasize improving the world. This vision is captured with this foundational ethic: Engineers shall hold paramount the improvement of both human life and the larger community of life, for present and future generations. This paper develops this life-centered engineering vision by reviewing recent developments and their potential to transform engineering education and engineering practice.
Does engineering need a new paradigm? What is the current engineering paradigm? What are the founding principles of our current paradigm? What’s the new paradigm look like and what does it mean for education?
The answer to the first question is clearly yes, as I will show through a description of this new world view that more correctly models the modern world. The new world view I present applies to all engineers, even though it is certainly not accepted yet by most engineers. This paper, then, presents an alternative lens through which to understand the world and see the route that we must take.
Engineers’ Current World View We see our role as problem solvers and believe that nearly all problems can be solved, typically by breaking the problem down into smaller pieces. We also tend to see the world as black and white, that if people understood the “facts” of the situation, only one answer is possible. Similarly, we base most of our decisions on analysis of these facts, tending to neglect factors that cannot be readily quantified. We have faith in economics to guide our designs. It is not our job to decide what should be made; we are responsible for getting it made in an economical way.
Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2004, American Society for Engineering Education
Lau, A. (2004, June), Life Centered Design – A Paradigm For Engineering In The 21 St Century Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13851
ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2004 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015