Brave new world?

With all the software tools out there today, engineering is getting simpler by the minute. Whatever you want to do, you can be assured that there is an engineering package that will meet your needs.

‘To the machine the work of the machine. To man, the thrill of further creation.’ – Omron Corporation, Corporate Philosophy.

With all the software tools out there today, engineering is getting simpler by the minute. Whatever you want to do, you can be assured that there is an engineering package that will meet your needs.

Fancy designing a new electromechanical subassembly? Not a problem. Just get yourself some solid modelling software and suddenly, hey presto, you’re a design engineer! Want to find out what the thermo-mechanical reliability of your advanced electronic package is? Just get some FEA software and let it run. Trying to figure out what the internal flow looks like in that combustion engine you are developing? Don’t bother. Just purchase some CFD software. Attempting to realise how to systematically analyse your product design with the goal of reducing manufacture and assembly costs? Get some DFMA software. Don’t do it yourself.

It’s that easy to be an engineer these days.

Do I hear some dissenters in the audience? Do I hear you ask about the value of all those years of experience you have gained in your particular industry? That’s what makes you worth the big bucks, isn’t it? This software might be powerful, but surely it can’t replace you? Can it?

Well maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But by 2050, all those ‘years of experience’ might not be worth a hill of beans.

Because even as we speak, researchers throughout the world are working on developing extremely powerful AI software packages that will allow anyone with a PC to access years of intellectual property from disparate databases across the Internet in the fields of design, manufacturing and commerce.

Better yet, the software will then determine the most cost-effective way to build, make and sell any given product based on a comparative analysis of the knowledge it’s gained from its search.

Just imagine! The design experience of NASA, the manufacturing experience of Toyota and the commercial savvy of Dyson right at your finger tips.

With such systems in place, the face of the industry will change dramatically.

Many of the larger companies, such as Boeing, Toyota or Intel will be making as much money out of selling their intellectual property as they presently do out of manufacturing aircraft, automobiles or microprocessors.

The management of smaller companies, on the other hand, will no longer need to employ experienced engineers. Why should they when they can literally ‘re-use’ the wisdom of ages, bought for a small fee from other companies that have already ‘been there and done that’. A kid out of school who can turn on the PC and let it run the program will do just fine.

All science will then just become a cookery book, with an orthodox theory of cooking that nobody will be allowed to question, and a list of recipes that mustn’t be added to except by special permission from the head cook.

It will indeed be a Brave New World.