LEARNING LESSONS OF THE PAST AND CREATING THE RIGHT FUTURE.….
“A scientist can discover a new star but he cannot make one. He would have to ask an engineer to do it for him”.
— Gordon Lindsay Glegg
As more and more voices raise the call for “responsible innovation,” and a society of scholars and practitioners adopt the “RI” cause, what role should engineers and their professional organizations play.
We might say that in doing their work, and through the innovation processes that they are part of, engineers are writing history. In so doing, they take on a huge responsibility….don’t they?
Engineers’ role in ethical decision-making processes, and their responsibility to future generations for the effects brought about through their work…..are bound to be questionable. Engineers should move away from looking at their work from a purely technical point of view and ask how their developments may affect humanity’s outlook and whether they are working towards idealized goals of societal progress, evolution, and expansion.
A decade ago RI was practically unheard of, with scattered individuals in universities across the globe connecting through a loose network of interests, or working with non-academic partners on the fringes of policy-making and politics. Today the community boasts RI University chairs, dedicated blogs, book series, and a growing global network.
The goal of RI is to make the entire innovation process responsible, and not merely individual engineers, scientists or entrepreneurs. A decade ago RI was practically unheard of, with scattered individuals in universities across the globe connecting through a loose network of interests, or working with non-academic partners on the fringes of policy-making and politics. The concept is still in its immaturity and as a result definitions flourish within a rapidly expanding body of literature both from academic and non-academic sources.
As with any other young concept, RI draws from a broad base of methodologies, interests and experiences. Current research includes placing social scientists in laboratories to enhance scientists’ own understanding of the complex consequences and undulate-effects of their innovations; the construction of ethical frameworks to bring RI considerations to bear onto both funding and research practice areas; and the investigation of grass-roots models of production that seem to fit the various RI models.
“Responsible-innovation is an iterative process throughout which the project’s impacts on social, economic and environmental factors are, where possible, measured and otherwise taken into account at each step of development of the project, thereby guaranteeing control over, or at least awareness of, the innovation’s impacts throughout the entire lifecycle. In the case of impacts which are not accurately measurable prior to the launch but are considered to potentially become critical risk factors once the project is on the market, a number of hypotheses should be formulated in order to be tested post-launch to determine whether the product should be re-integrated into a previous step of the process for amendment aiming to minimize negative impacts.” (Pavie, X. and Carthy, D. (2013) ‘Responsible-Innovation in Practice: How to implement Responsibility Across an Organization’, (Cahier Innovation & Society)
The RI debate has also evolved to incorporate those interested in entrepreneurship and small business, banking, science and scientific research and a host of other fields. The European Commission has included the concept in many of its research calls, as have various engineering and academic funding bodies.
Responsible innovations are coming mostly from dropouts these days rather than qualified engineers. Good post, we must think of disruptive innovation to create positive impact on larger global population