Archive for March, 2013


determining our own future

0313MEM_CoverTo the surprise of some friends who hold the coffee bean as an elixir of religious proportions, on most days I wait to get to the office for my first cup of morning coffee. But on Saturdays I enjoy one of life’s uncomplicated rituals of brewing a pot and easing into the weekend.

The society most of us live in affords us these simple pleasures as well as some that aren’t so simple. Especially in the U.S., we embrace the right to expect a reward for our hard work and the prizes that come from the fruits of our work. The expectation of this quid pro quo doesn’t exist everywhere, especially in many places outside the U.S.

But there’s a growing realization that economic prosperity is tied to science, technology, engineering, and innovation. As our newest columnist, Andrew Reynolds—who works at the U.S. State Department and whose first column appears this month—tells us, these dominant forces of prosperity are ones that ”All nations—large and small—aspire to harness.” The global challenges of the 21st century, Reynolds says, “do not respect national boundaries and require cooperation in science and engineering to address them successfully.”

The magnitude of these global challenges, beginning with population growth, energy, and water, makes the notion of putting even a minor dent in them seem daunting.

Positive reviews of Abundance—The Future is Better Than You Think, co-written by the founder of the X Prize Foundation, Peter H. Diamandis, last year cited the book for its optimistic vision of our own ability to help improve the world.

Diamandis and his co-author, Steven Kotler, make the point that we’re now living in a world of information and communication abundance. For example, a Masai warrior with a cell phone, they say, has a better mobile phone than the president of the United States did 25 years ago.

They write: “In a similar fashion, the advancement of new, transformational technologies—computational systems, networks and sensors, artificial intelligence, robotics, biotechnology, bioinformatics, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, human-machine interfaces, and biomedical engineering—will soon enable the vast majority of humanity to experience what only the affluent have access to today. Even better, these technologies aren’t the only change agents in play.”

It is encouraging to believe that it is within our own ability to create change. For me, Abundance is not so much inspirational as it is reinforcing. But I’m lucky. I’ve got a first-hand view of our own ability to move the needle on a macro scale. A focus on curating the intellectual capital of engineers, designers, and other important stakeholders has turned ASME into one of those global change agents, and has empowered those of us close to the organization to make a difference.

Diamandis (who talks about some of his ideas in this issue’s exclusive One-on-One interview) asks us in his book to “Imagine a world of nine billion people with clean water, nutritious food, affordable housing, personalized education, top-tier medical care, and nonpolluting, ubiquitous energy.”

He believes that the world’s growing population will have the power to solve many of the problems in front of them, and that everyone deserves to expect the fruits of their work—now that’s inspirational.

The Editor

John G. Falcioni is Editor-in-Chief of Mechanical Engineering magazine, the flagship publication of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

March 2013

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