Our Responsibility as Critical Engineers

  1. The Critical Engineer considers any technology depended upon to be both a challenge and a threat. The greater the dependence on a technology the greater the need to study and expose its inner workings, regardless of ownership or legal provision.

                                –“The Critical Engineering Manifesto” by Julian Oliver et al. (2011)

It is no wonder that society has come to rely on modern conveniences so much. Technology is upgrading itself a thousandfold as you read this entry. However, with all these upgrades, society also gains the responsibility of learning this technology inside and out. We need to be sure of a device’s reliability and be able to modify it into something even more dependable. After all, we are entrusting a great portion of our lives to someone’s invention, and if we are ignorant about the inner mechanisms of our technology, we are at the mercy of the inventors or the technology itself.

This point in the manifesto speaks to me greatly because I have felt the consequences of engineering illiteracy. When most of us see a smartphone, laptop, or television, we don’t see past their flashy screens all the time. We can’t help it. They are designed with such ingenuity that their inner workings could just as well be magic. But that leaves us at a disadvantage when we try to define and shape the foundations of our modern society.

Last class I learned about a group of critical engineers called the Graffiti Research Lab. They revised a Kinect camera into an Eyewriter for a graffiti artist who could only move his eyes. The project is an inspiration, for it created a device that revolutionized a patient’s way of living from a few hundred dollars, as opposed to thousands. In addition, they distributed the blueprints so others could implement the Eyewriter and make an impact.

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