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©2000 Zhan Huan Zhou
Updated Jan-01-2000

Please email me for comments, corrections, or suggestions.

Topical Disaster

©1999 Zhan Huan Zhou, Fall 1998, Issue 2

In today's computer saturated world, the interaction between science, technology and values is the becoming increasingly significant to the members of society. Technology needs an ambassador to society, but more importantly, to the students that will ultimately be at the leading edge of technology. In 1984, the Centre for Society, Technology and Values (CSTV) was established and since 1991, has been located within the Systems Design Engineering department. CSTV explores interaction among areas such as human values, modern technology, culture and the structure of society. STV courses promote a critical awareness of the interactions of human values, modern technology and the structure of society. However, CSTV has recently committed to major flaws. In both the spring and fall term of 1998, CSTV offered the "Beynon Memorial Humanitarian Award" to the best article addressing a current science related dilemma in society. In the spring term, the topic of discussion was:

"Technology is becoming obsolete at an increasingly rapid rate. What is the impact of accelerating obsolescence on the quality of life for members of society?"

You will probably have to read it a few times before it even makes any sense whatsoever. For this current fall term, the topic is:

"Is the Davis Centre a good symbol of the human values engineering should represent in our society?"

Read it again. Now read it again. If you try to make sense of the above statement before continuing, I fear that you will never finish reading my article so I ask you to continue.

I thought the mission of the Centre for Society, Technology and Values was to make technology more approachable. Complex technology is constantly being presented to a society not yet mature enough to handle it. If these two contest topics are any indication of CSTV, I fear for everyone who takes an STV course. I fear that students are being taught to be cryptic and unclear. I fear that students will have a false sense of superiority because they can talk technical hogwash. According to the CSTV web page, "the Centre is growing rapidly and now serves more than 400 undergraduate students each year." These contests are an outlet to the public to show the mission of CSTV. Instead, they waste an enormous opportunity by presenting two very poorly worded topics. There should be a bigger prize for the person who can actually decipher what the topic is actually asking.

With all this being said, I still do encourage you to submit an entry into the contest. A firm understanding of social implications is a defining factor of a good engineer.