As a Space Engineer and now an Associate Professor passing on that Space Engineering knowledge to others, there are four questions I have found helpful to my own, ongoing, TS journey:
- Who and what are on the other side of my work?
- Am I doing all the good I can?
- What might I need to reconcile before moving forward?
- Am I really bringing all of myself to my work?
Early on, the Engineering Change Lab Canada asked how engineering could build better metaphorical bridges to the world, to connect more to the challenges around us. It is also important to see what Eengineering looks like from the other side of those metaphorical bridges. When we strive to understand human and non-human stakeholders in a project, we may not always walk far enough in their footsteps. Have they been empowered to be part of that engagement, and what is my responsibility is to empower them? I am the one who is needy in this task – I need the world’s materials, I need people to work with me, and I need to know how what I do helps or hinders the world.
In doing engineering, our ethics and regulations are built around doing no harm, ensuring safety and welfare.
TS demands I also consider whether I am going beyond “doing no harm”, and striving to “do all the good I am able to do”. Am I using safety and welfare as an excuse not to act, if that action may require some risk? Will I confront the ethical challenges of finding and addressing any unintended negative consequences that may arise.
Many developments in engineering have provided great benefits to the world, and also significant negative unintended consequences. At the heart of many of the challenges that created the UN sustainable development goals are unintended consequences of engineering. To reconcile this past, I start in ignorance. The path will often take me through denial, guilt, impotence and anger, but eventually I can strive to get to a place where I can finally take action.
In this TS journey, I have seen myself shift from doing engineering as an engineer, to doing engineering as Franz, one person on a fragile planet. When I bring all of my humanity to engineering, I can better recognize my biases and my connections to the world, and I may be more able to empower and hear all the other voices we need for that engineering to be stewarded better.