From prosthetics and biomechanics such as lifelike robots and moving artificial limbs, to new technologies such as special rockets that allow us to travel to mars, and to artificial intelligence which is completely changing the technology and medical industries, we are seeing a third industrial revolution that is advancing all of society. As the technology of society changes, the types of jobs that are available to people will change as well.
This revolution will see a change from people working on the factory floor to the offices nearby, which will be full of designers, engineers, IT specialists, logistics experts, marketing staff, and other professionals because there will be no more need for workers since everything will be made by robots (The Third Industrial Revolution, 3). Since there is expected to be such a large shift in ideas, technology, and jobs within the next few years and decades, it is important to educate society on what to expect as we progress through this new industrial revolution. With many new technologies, ideas, and innovations today, we are seeing a new revolution where engineering will make a substantial and positive impact on society in the fields of biotechnology, robotics, materials, and space exploration.
Biotechnology is the use of biological processes for purposes in the fields of biology, genetic manipulation, tissue reconstruction, and antibiotics. Biotechnology would not be as widespread as it is today without the use of biomaterials. A biomaterial is a substance or combination of biologically inert substances that are used for implantation or integration in a living organism in order to improve or replace specific tissue or organ functions (Grosu-Bularda 422). Before this new technology, human organ and tissue transplantation was the standard, but there is now a limitation with donors, risk of rejection, and risk of infection.
The use of biomaterials allows engineers and doctors to use materials that work properly with that specific persons body, allowing them to use the tissue, or other organ to its full potential. Biomaterials and artificial organs allow doctors to help the patient with a known obvious issue. However, if the issue is something that needs careful think, there is a likelihood that the doctor can diagnose the patient in a wrong way. According to the US Institute of Medicine, approximately one in 10 medical diagnoses is wrong and that in primary care, one in 20 patients will get a wrong diagnosis… [this will] contribute to as many as 80,000 unnecessary deaths each year in the US alone (Sukel).
Humans are not perfect and therefore doctors cannot make perfect medical diagnoses every single time. That is why artificial intelligence has become so important in the field of medicine. The computer is not only taught a vast amount of information, but it is also able learn new information as time progresses. For example, when [engineers] trained a deep-learning neural network using more than 100,000 images of skin problems, ranging from cancer to insect bites, then tested it on 14,000 new images, the system correctly diagnosed melanomas more often than seasoned dermatologists (Sukel).
There have also been instances where computers have been able to outperform doctors when diagnosing diabetes, cancer, heart attacks, and general health. As technology becomes more powerful every day, artificial intelligence will be able to process large amounts of data at very high speeds, model complex relationships between different variables, and update themselves to stay consistent with the data.
Robotics is technology used in designing machines that are capable of carrying out complex series of actions, some resembling humans by replicating general movements and functions. Marc Raibert, CEO of Boston Dynamics, an engineering company that creates highly advanced robots, believes that robotics will make a much bigger impact than the internet did. Raibert says, The Internet lets every person reach out and touch all the information in the world. But robotics lets you reach out and touch and manipulate all the stuff in the world and so it is not just restricted to information, it is everything (Galeon). Since robots are becoming very human-like, this can be seen as a good thing and a bad thing.
These robots can help us with many daily activities and can do many things that humans might not be able to do. These robots are becoming more mobile, agile, skillful, and greater autonomous perception. However, there might come a time when these robots will take all of our jobs, or one day even rule over all of humanity. Another technology where robotics is important is in prosthetics. A prosthesis is an artificial device that takes the place of a missing body part. They are used to restore the normal functions of a body part that could have been lost due to trauma, disease, or congenital conditions.
The origin of prosthetics is said to have been around 16th-century France. In more recent times, new lightweight materials and better mechanical joints were introduced to allow people to walk, run, jump, or climb again. Whether they were injured during war or were born with a defect, prosthetics have been able to impact all kinds of people, big and small. This new generation of prosthetics and robotics have included more movable joints, electrical signals connected to brain that allow user to move on their own, and other essentials that help each specific person with their daily activities.
There are so many materials in todays society that affect the way we live and invent. In the past, things were made from screwing or welding two things together. However, in todays world, a product can be created on a computer and printed as a three-dimensional figure by building up layers of material to make it stronger and lighter. If you make a mistake, you are able to fix it immediately on the computer, where with real materials, you would need to start all over if you made a mistake. Products that are three-dimensionally printed are being used in many different applications.
From organs and biomaterials, to hearing aids and prosthetics, and advanced parts for airplanes and vehicles. These new materials have become much stronger, lighter, and more durable than many materials used in the past. For example, carbon fiber has been used to replace high quality metals such as aluminum and steel in many automobiles, race cars, and airplanes. Some of these special materials can give different products very specific features, such as bandages that help heal cuts, engines that run more efficiently and crockery that cleans more easily (The Third Industrial Revolution).
Along with 3D printing came the idea of 3D bioprinting. This concept is extremely similar to the conventional 3D printer, but it has the capability of producing biological products. Reconstructive surgery can be used for many surgical reasons. A new organ, such as an artificial bladder, heart valve, pacemaker, joint, skin, tissue, or bone, might be required by a patient. With prosthetics and bioengineering, engineers have been able to transform peoples lives by allowing them to live the life they used to have. The efficiency and reliability of product creation is becoming more advanced every day. The methods for mass production of items and materials are becoming more flexible, automated, and energy efficient due to many different methods of engineering. This new automation closes the disconnect between the design and manufacturing of a product, and mass customization allows for innovated and better- made products.
Ever since the start of humanity, we have always been curious about where we came from and why Earth is such a special place. Since 1958, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been focused on understanding Earth, the Solar System, the Big Bang, and other topics including astrophysics and climate change. The next few years will be very important for agencies like NASA and companies like SpaceX that plan on sending robots to Mars. These robots will look for signs of bacteria, indicating that life is present on Mars, and therefore increasing the likelihood of humanity moving to Mars.
NASA also plans on sending humans to Mars, the furthest human exploration in space in history. These astronauts will begin testing the many technologies and systems that are needed for living on mars as well as missions to other destinations in space. The International Space Station, a research laboratory in low-Earth orbit, creates a one of kind location for scientific advancements, testing of new technologies, and research in the fields of biology, chemistry, and physics.
NASA is also, helping transform aviation by developing advanced technologies for revolutionary aircraft shapes and propulsion, and for the airspace in which they fly, which dramatically improve efficiency, reduce noise and maintain safety in more crowded skies (Dunbar). They are planning to continue creating technologies such as solar electric propulsion, deep space navigation, new green propellants, and in-space manufacturing and assembly (Dunbar). This new technology will help advance the idea that NASA has of reach deep space destination in the future.
With all of these new technologies and innovations in this third industrial revolution, we expect to see a dramatic change in jobs and the work force. It has been estimated that, about 65% of children entering primary schools today will likely work in roles that dont currently exist (Dunne 1). There will be a decline in office, manufacturing, and production roles, and an increase in business, financial operation, and computer and mathematical function roles (Dunne 2). However, why are we seeing such a sudden change in jobs? Just like the two previous industrial revolutions in the 16th century and the 20th century, there was a large disruption in the amount of jobs available for specific fields.
For example, when the Model T car was created, there was a decline in farriers, or people that trim horses hooves. This is due to the fact that less people were riding horses, and more were buying cars. The future will most likely consist of factories completely filled with robots. Therefore, humans will need to take jobs in offices that will most likely be full of designers, engineers, IT specialists, logistics experts, marketing staff and other professionals to help create and look over the robots (?The Third Industrial Revolution). This third revolution will also affect where many of these products and technologies will be made and produced.
Many companies are moving back to their own countries instead of staying in poor countries because they feel like it is more important that they are closer to their customers. It is believed that, in areas such as transport, computers, fabricated metals and machinery, 10-30% of the goods that America now imports from China could be made at home by 2020, boosting American output by $20 billion-55 billion a year (The Third Industrial Revolution).
With the work force of society changing from office, manufacturing, and production, to business, science, and engineering, it is important to properly educate the people that will be going into these fields. The most important skills these people must have are how to work in teams, how to create quickly designs, how to reliably manufacture products, and how to use creativity and engineering together. In order to keep improving the technology of the future, the American workforce must have the ability to invent, design, and create new products, devices, systems and services in order to compete on a global level and to provide the spark of innovation to seed new industries and economic growth (Coates).
The adults and more sophisticated members of society must ensure that the current and future generations have all the skills to succeed and are not left behind in this new technology and innovation race. Engineering, science, and technology, through its role of creativity and intelligence, has made a large impact in the improvement of the well-being and health of humans. The engineers of the future must have solid foundation in the basics of math and science.
It is also important to emphasize creative and design which will allow these generations to effectively lead in the development and innovation of technologies to prevent the problems of the future. There needs to be a push in engineering professions that will, rapidly embrace the potentialities offered by creativity, invention, and cross-disciplinary fertilization to create and accommodate new fields of endeavor, including those that require openness to interdisciplinary efforts with non-engineering disciplines such as science, social science, and business (Coates). Engineering educators as well as engineers themselves need to take a large effort to address the technological and societal challenges of the future.
Throughout history, there have been many great things that have come out of new ideas, technologies, and innovations. However, there have also some negative results such as pollution, global warming, depletion of scarce resources, and catastrophic failures of poorly designed engineering systems are examples. However, overall, engineers and their creations have impacted society and have reshaped the way that we live today.
Through biotechnology, robotics, materials, and space exploration, we are seeing a new uprising in the field of engineering. New products, ideas, innovations, and technologies are allowing humanity to advance into the future where daily activities will be safer, easier, and quicker. These new technologies will help keep humans health and will also allow us to find out about how the Earth works and what its history is like.
The next few years and decades will allow the field engineering to have opportunity to strengthen its role in society and to define an engineering career as, one of the most influential and valuable in society and one that is attractive for the best and the brightest (National Academy of Engineering). If future generations take this opportunity, it is important to show that the roles of engineers and engineering will help establish a new vision of the future that creates a society that continually succeeding in creating new technology, innovations, and ideas.