Engineering a Better Future – Interplay between Engineering, Social Sciences, and Innovation

Engineers make up roughly 2% of any country’s population, however, they exert an outsize impact on the lives of citizens and on society in general. Since the Industrial Revolution through the current Information Revolution, engineers through their work have played the roles of sociologist, economist, political scientist, and policy analyst, changing the patterns of our lives. Socially embedded innovations such as the cell phone and the Internet are transforming the economic, social, cultural, and physical well-being of people all over the world. The debate is often over how the technology fits into society and not necessarily over how society is reflected in the technology developed.

The social implications of engineering and the social influence of engineering is often left out leading to a paucity of interaction between social sciences and engineering in any meaningful way. Engineers are often unaware of technological history and the role of social forces in the history of the development of technologies. Furthermore, the importance of social understanding of innovation processes is often downplayed both in daily and academic discourse on engineering.

The goal is to bring together engineers and social scientists to examine the role that engineers have in the future of our living environments and our economies, and to begin a discussion on how best to integrate the social sciences into engineering practice and research. The best innovation systems anticipate characteristics of technological use and culture, and these are best informed by the social sciences.

Engineering is shaped and informed by social sciences in ways that would benefit from open discussion and greater integration. Often the larger population and engineers themselves are seldom aware of engineers’ contributions to social sciences. From Stevenson to Ford, engineers continually envision and actualize profound changes to social character and behavior. Individuals such as Benjamin Whorf, Vilfredo Pareto, and Fredrick Taylor whom, while engineers in practice, made significant contributions to social sciences, suggesting the close interrelationship between engineering and social sciences. Given the range of problems faced by global society from global warming, the automation of work, to environment degradation and social inequity, it is clear that only through the collaboration and appreciation of the each other can engineers and social scientists work together to solve these critical problems.

Here are some key elements to be considered:

- Reconnecting Engineering with the Social and Political Sphere

- Evolving from Single Disciplines to Renaissance Teams

- Designing the Future We Want

- Engineering Design and Society

- The Role of Emotion and Culture in the “Moment of Opening” - An Episode of Creative Collaboration

- Do the Best Design Ideas (Really) Come from Conceptually Distant Sources of Inspiration?

- Knowledge, Skill, and Wisdom: Reflections on Integrating the Social Sciences and Engineering


Source : Springer

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