Thanks for your comments. I've been deeply involved in the Future World Vision (FWV) project at ASCE since its inception, and I'm happy to see that you are diving into it. I hope you have downloaded the software platform and started to work your way through the various neighborhoods in Mega City 2070, you can leave more specific comments on features of the city by using the social networking tools. It's really the best way to understand what FWV is all about.
Here are a few reactions to your ideas that will hopefully provoke some additional discussion here:
- A major motivation for FWV was to help engineers think more strategically about potentially disruptive future trends, and how engineers might evolve their practice, research, or study to address such future outcomes. While our day to day work is critical to public safety, we can become bogged down in the details of optimization using the tools we already have in hand. Every once in a while it is important to look forward in time and foster new ideas that might take us out of our comfort zones. That's the experience we are hoping you will have when you use this platform.
- Through ASCE I've met so many inspiring professionals that are "breaking the mold" of what a traditional civil engineer can do to make an impact. As an example, just today I spoke to a colleague whose civil engineering firm has pivoted from port engineering of physical assets to the development of automation tools that will greatly improve supply chain management. I also got to collaborate recently with a group of engineers working on embedded edge computing, a key technology to enable smart cities and improve infrastructure reliability.
- We're working hard at ASCE to develop programs at colleges and universities to encourage strategic, systems thinking in the next generation of engineers. Some recent graduates have been through these seminars, and are coming to work in the profession with a fresh perspective and excitement for how we can address the key challenges of our time - such as climate change, the role of AI in engineering and our daily lives, and building safer and more resilient communities with affordable housing.
- FWV is a great way to spark conversation across a diverse spectrum of our profession - people of all ages can get involved and bring their ideas to the table, hopefully learning a lot by listening to each other's perspectives. At my office, we've developed an internal working group of engineers that meet regularly to discuss our experiences in the FWV Mega City 2070. As a firm principal, I find these conversations to be a great way to connect with our staff and give them a voice in how our company plans for its own future.
- In your comments you mentioned "One answer might be some intense introspection into what it means to be a civil engineer and strategic action planning - to ensure civil engineers are leaders and not followers in achieving the Future World Vision". I could not agree more! However, one comment I'd make is that I don't think we will necessarily "achieve" the Future World Vision. Mega-City 2070, and the other planned virtual experiences, are really meant to be thought-provoking scenarios based on potential future outcomes from trends we see today. The real goal is not to predict the future or even set a specific "vision" of what it should be - instead we're trying to provoke a deep conversation among engineers and other stakeholders about the challenges we face, and how we can make a positive impact on the world through our work to make it a better place to live.
David J. Odeh
SE, PE, F. SEI, F. ASCE
Principal, Odeh Engineers, Inc.
Sent: 07-23-2022 04:46 PM
From: Mitchell Winkler
Subject: Future World Vision: Will Civil Engineers be Leaders or Followers?
There's a lot to like about the Future World Vision but is it really civil engineers who will make it happen or will civil engineering as we know it today need to change with the times. Examples here are increased automation and smart functionality, new sources of energy, and use of big data to drive decision making. I think all of the problems / challenges that civil engineers are trained to solve today will be there in the future, e.g., structures, water resources, wastewater, etc. but will civil engineers realistically be looked to as leaders in these emerging and evolving areas or just play supporting roles. In the back of my head is the book the "Innovator's Dilemma" by Clayton Christensen. A pitfall for market leaders or specialty suppliers - who are prized for what they can do – is that they can become trapped in their own success. This can happen because new and existing customers want more of the same – if not better – and look to others for new products and services. Admittedly, Christensen's hypothesis is just that, but I find it both provocative and compelling. One answer might be some intense introspection into what it means to be a civil engineer and strategic action planning – to ensure civil engineers are leaders and not followers in achieving the Future World Vision. Maybe work is being done behind the scenes and it would be great to also hear from people who are involved in this effort.
Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCE