The Entrepreneurial Engineer

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Engineering identity in the postmodern world

Andrew Fox at Philosophy of Engineering is blogging about the identity crisis of engineering in our brave new world (here). Many of the concerns of that post resonate with the themes of The Entrepreneurial Engineer.

Engineers of our times must be more broadly capable than Cold War engineers. Engineering educators and leaders of our times need to be more reflective on the foundations and underpinnings of engineering, and they must grasp the opportunities to bridge engineering to the social sciences and the humanities. The key distinctive feature of our times is the interconnection of a large segment of the world's population, the cache of data about human preferences and behavior that this network creates, and the possibility of moving from qualitative and statistical modes of reasoning about human affairs to a new kind of engineering knowledge that is quantitative and sufficiently predictive to enable better postmodern systems design.

Engineers of the Cold War concentrated their efforts on designing physical systems that obeyed natural laws. Engineers of the postmodern era will need to learn to concentrate their efforts on designing institutional facts (in Searle's sense) integrated with physical devices that serve the needs of diverse, distributed populations around the globe.

These efforts requires solid engineering metaphysics, epistemology, and a deeper concern for the logic of invention. They will also strain our Cold War notions of engineering ethics as well. For these reasons, and many more, a better concern for the philsophy of engineering is crucial at this juncture in time.
My view is that the crisis is worse than Fox suggests. and I doubt that the remedies suggested will be of much

More Teaching Company hits

I've blogged previously about Teaching Company courses, and my combined mind-body exercise program continues unabated. I just finished James Hall's course Tools of Thinking: Understanding the World Through Experience and Reason. I liked his earlier course Philosophy of Religion, and thought Tools of Thinking would be worth a shot. I was right.

Tools of Thinking is a subtle interweaving of metaphysics, logic, philosophy of science, history of thought and great thinkers in a form that I think entrepreneurial engineers will particularly appreciate. It is practical, erudite, informative and Hall has a dry sense of humor and an avuncular manner. Lovely course.

I'm just underway on the Teaching Company's flagship course 84-lecture Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition, 3rd Edition. Back when I started running (1994?), I bought the first edition of this course on audiotape, listened to it on my morning runs, and really enjoyed it, but they've added some terrific new lecturers and made a very good course even better. My exercise regimen has changed (weights and elliptical training), and now I watch DVDs instead of listening to tapes, but the Teaching Company has been a twelve-year invariant in my life.

Hello TEE students

The purpose of this post is to say hello to all GE 498 students in The Entrepreneurial Engineer. There is still time to register for those interested in taking the course online. For those interested in taking it on campus, simply sign up using the normal registration procedures.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Take TEE online

The arrival date for The Entrepreneurial Engineer in the warehouse at Wiley is 25 August. In the meanwhile, you can sign up to take my 1-hour online course by the same name at the Office of Continuing Engineering Education website here.

The course can be used toward credit for the Strategic Technology Management graduate certificate (see here). It may also be useful for a variety of online graduate programs at the UIUC and elsewhere (see program requirements).

I will be offering the course on campus on Thursday afternoons (starting this week) as GE 498-DG1 (click here).