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The Assessment Of Proposed Technologies

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.981.1 - 6.981.8

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Paper Authors

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Neil Quinn

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Tim Healy

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

Session 1437

THE ASSESSMENT OF PROPOSED TECHNOLOGIES Tim Healy, Neil Quinn Santa Clara University


As new technologies are introduced at an increasingly rapid rate, it becomes vital that society develop strategies that assess the impact of such technologies on our lives. To address this challenge the Graduate School of Engineering at Santa Clara University has introduced a new course requirement for all engineers. This paper describes the need, and the approach that Santa Clara has taken.

It has long been understood that new technologies often have a life of their own, leading to outcomes, some good, some bad, that were not anticipated by their developers. The reaction to such unanticipated consequences cannot be to pursue no new technologies, as that would have its own unforeseen consequences. Nor is it acceptable to blindly pursue new ideas with no reflection on their possible implications. An effective society must find a middle ground. It is critically important that we reflect on issues that include: stakeholders (present and future), possible consequences that are difficult to anticipate, ethical concerns, and others. Engineers are often in a unique position to address some of these issues.

Santa Clara University has introduced a new set of courses designed to help engineers reflect on such matters so that they can make a positive contribution to the necessary societal debate. The paper briefly describes nine courses and then emphasizes a new course, Societal Issues in Engineering Professional Practice, which has been designed specifically to give engineers an organized approach to technology assessment.

The paper also describes a web site which has been set up to help others in society assess technologies.

1. Introduction

New technologies will have profound effects on the future of society. Some of these effects are of course intended. But others are not intended, and not anticipated. The latter can have an extraordinary impact on society, often far greater than that of the original intended effects. An effective society must find ways to deal with new technologies so that potentially harmful technologies can be banned or inhibited, and potentially useful technologies can be encouraged and accommodated in appropriate ways. This paper concerns an approach to the problem of assessment, and in particular to the teaching of assessment concepts to students of engineering. We stress here that the assessment is that of the technology in question and not of the student outcomes in the course.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Quinn, N., & Healy, T. (2001, June), The Assessment Of Proposed Technologies Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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