The Entrepreneurial Engineer

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Philosophy of engineering not a contradiction in terms

I've been on a philosophy reading/learning jag for a number of months, and one of the questions I've had is why isn't there a well defined literature on the philosophy of engineering. Science has a longstanding literature on the philosophy of science. Other fields of practice, for example law and medicine seem more philosophically inclined. Engineering (and business for that matter) seem less inclined toward philosophical reflection and speculation.

On the one hand, this dearth of philosophizing can be attributed to the practical nature of the engineering enterprise. Engineers are busy doing, and reflection on that activity detracts from getting the job done, but this argument does not answer why engineering scholars in the academy and elsewhere don't spend more time reflecting on the place of engineering in the world, the ontology and epistomology of engineering artifacts and knowledge, engineering method, ethics, and other philosophical topics.

Although there is a growing community of engineering scholars concerned with ethics, there appears to be a substantial philosophical hole in the engineering literature. Some of the chapters of The Entrepreneurial Engineer were essentially philosophical in nature, and an interesting course of action would be to take those loose threads and tie them together into a more integrated philosophy of engineering. Stay tuned for further posts along these lines.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Solomon and existentialism

I've just started Robert Solomon's Teaching Company course No Excuses: Existentialism and the Meaning of Life. I've enjoyed his Nietzsche course and his Passions course (see here and here). Looks like another winner.

Examined Life

I'm in the middle of reading Robert Nozick's Examined Life. As you can see from the table of contents (below)
  1. Introduction
  2. Dying
  3. Parents and Children
  4. Creating
  5. The Nature of God, The Nature of Faith
  6. The Holiness of Everyday Life
  7. Sexuality
  8. Love's Bond
  9. Emotions
  10. Happiness
  11. Focus
  12. Being More Real
  13. Selflessness
  14. Stances
  15. Value and Meaning
  16. Importance and Weight
  17. The Matrix of Reality
  18. Darnkness and Light
  19. Theological Explanations
  20. The Holocaust
  21. Enlightenment
  22. Giving Everything Its Due
  23. What is Wisdom and Why to Philosophers Love It So?
  24. The Ideal and the Actual
  25. The Zigzag of Politics
  26. Philosophy's Life
  27. A Portrait of the Philosopher as a Young Man
Nozick has something to say about everything, and much of what he has to says is interesting if not entirely persuasive. I'm slugging through the middle sections on what is real (Ch. 12-17), and I like the framework, but the whole thing seems a bit more Platonically ideal than real. Nonetheless the categories he sets up seem useful and worth the effort.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Pink's whole new mind

Daniel Pink has a new book called A Whole New Mind in which he explores the logic of employment in what he calls the conceptual age. Given the 3 As (abundance, automation, and Asia), traditional high paying employment in the information age (business, engineering, accounting) that involves left-brain skills (analytical thinking and language) will be supplanted by increased emphasis on right-brain skills (creativity and art).

The argument of a shift to creativity makes sense. The idea that these skills will supplant analytical skills across the employment spectrum does not. My view is that Pink is right that entrepreneurial engineers going forward will need to be more creative. They will need to be category creators, not category enhancers. They will still be valued for their analytical skills, but the best engineers will be distinguished by strong right brain skills.

Read A Whole New Mind and see if you agree.

Advance praise for TEE

A number of people have written some nice things about The Entrepreneurial Engineer. Here's Severn's Chair for Human Behavior, Ray Price:

The Entrepreneurial Engineer is important for engineers at any stage of their careers. Goldberg presents lessons and insights that are critical for engineering students who are forming their professional perspectives and attitudes and useful for practicing engineers who are assessing their lives and careers. Goldberg writes in a style that is informative, provocative, and practical. The skills he describes and challenges us to develop are critical for the demanding and creative engineering profession—will we make the most of the opportunities before us? Developing the skills outlined in The Entrepreneurial Engineer is a necessity for a productive engineering career.

Raymond L. Price
William H. Severns Professor of Human Behavior
Director, Illinois Leadership Center
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

TEE page proofs in

The page proofs for The Entrepreneurial Engineer are into Wiley and the book will come out later this summer.