By Dipanshu Gandhi

Imagine telling someone 300 years ago that you were able to search for information in billions of books without ever opening a page, communicate live with someone on the other side of the world, travel to another continent in under 12 hours, or spend money without ever touching currency. They would find it truly uncanny, yet I am referring only to Google, Skype, aeroplanes and credit cards. In the modern information era we are truly empowered with these abilities every day, often taking them for granted. Yet have we thought about who is responsible for this exponential increase in our standard of living? One discipline has toiled beyond measure to provide us with these luxuries, yet it goes almost entirely unnoticed. This group is, of course, engineers.

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But haven’t engineers ruined the planet with their empty promises of a better future? Haven’t they helped fuel mindless modern consumerism that has decimated our natural resources? Anti-technology proponents often use this to slander engineering, yet does this illustrate the larger picture? Whilst no-one can deny the damaging effects that have been resulted from the widespread adoption of many new goods, namely cars and electricity (both credited with CO2 emissions), it would be dishonest to not merit these inventions with the significant advancements in living standards they have brought along with them. Moreover, engineering once again provides the answer. Newer cars use fewer and fewer resources to manufacture, the carbon-fibre BMW I3 uses only 40% of the water during manufacturing that steel cars do, and new hybrids regularly achieve fuel consumption rates over 100m.p.g. Renewables are set to power 30% of the U.K.’s energy needs by 2020. These examples show that not only does engineering provide innovations that empower us, but also work to the best of their ability to alter their products in light of new information. This cycle of innovation and optimisation is often overlooked by those that slander new technologies, and the engineering that created it.

In addition, engineering also contributes directly and indirectly to strong economic growth. It has created trillion-dollar industries (namely internet companies and automobile manufacturers) that provide tens of millions of jobs, as well as providing businesses with a proven way to increase efficiency, productivity and decrease overhead costs. Many significant contributions are also subtle in nature. Biomedical engineers invent machines and techniques that lead to a healthier, and therefore more productive workforce, and avionics engineers produce satellites that give us crucial data on global warming.

I hope this short summary has illustrated the profound impact of engineering on our society, and why it deserves our appreciation.