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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the

New Century

National Academy of Engineering

ISBN: 0-309-53065-2, 118 pages, 6 x 9, (2004)

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Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
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Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
About Honeywell International
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Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
About National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation (NSF) was established in 1950 by
the Congress and is the only federal agency dedicated to supporting educa-
tion and fundamental research in all science and engineering disciplines.
The mission of NSF is to ensure that the United States maintains leader-
ship in scientific discovery and the development of new technologies. NSF
promotes the progress of engineering in the United States in order to enable
the nation's capacity for innovation and to support the creation of wealth
and a better quality of life.
About SBC Foundation
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Since its formation in 1984, SBC Foundation has distributed more than
$203 million to fund educational endeavors across the United States.
SBC Foundation-backed programs are designed to increase access to
information technologies, broaden technology training and professional
skills development, and integrate new technologies to enhance educa-
tion and economic development. The Foundation is an independent
entity and receives all of its funding from SBC Communications, Inc.
and its family of companies.
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
G. WAYNE CLOUGH (NAE), Chair, Georgia Institute of Technology
ALICE M. AGOGINO (NAE), University of California, Berkeley
GEORGE CAMPBELL, JR., The Cooper Union for the Advancement
of Science and Art
JAMES CHAVEZ, Sandia National Laboratories
DAVID O. CRAIG, Reliant Energy
JOSÉ B. CRUZ, JR. (NAE), Ohio State University
PEGGY GIRSHMAN, National Public Radio
DANIEL E. HASTINGS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MICHAEL J. HELLER, University of California, San Diego
DEBORAH G. JOHNSON, University of Virginia
ALAN C. KAY (NAE), Hewlett-Packard Company
TAREK M. KHALIL, University of Miami
ROBERT W. LUCKY (NAE), Telcordia Technologies
JOHN M. MULVEY, Princeton University
SHARON L. NUNES, International Business Machines, Inc.
HENRY PETROSKI (NAE), Duke University
SUE V. ROSSER, Georgia Institute of Technology
ERNEST T. SMERDON (NAE), University of Arizona
STEPHEN W. DIRECTOR (NAE), University of Michigan
PATRICIA F. MEAD, Study Director
MATTHEW CAIA, Project Assistant (through March 2003)
LANCE DAVIS, Executive Officer and Acting Director, Program Office
NATHAN KAHL, Project Assistant
PROCTOR REID, Associate Director, Program Office
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
STEPHEN W. DIRECTOR (NAE), Chair, University of Michigan
ALICE M. AGOGINO (NAE), University of California, Berkeley
ANJAN BOSE (NAE), Washington State University
ANTHONY BRIGHT, Harvey Mudd College
BARRY C. BUCKLAND (NAE), Merck Research Laboratories
G. WAYNE CLOUGH (NAE), Georgia Institute of Technology
MICHAEL CORRADINI (NAE), University of Wisconsin, Madison
RODNEY CUSTER, Illinois State University
JAMES W. DALLY (NAE), University of Maryland, College Park
RUTH A. DAVID (NAE), ANSER Corporation
ANN Q. GATES, University of Texas, El Paso
RANDY HINRICHS, Microsoft Corporation
ROSALYN HOBSON, Virginia Commonwealth University
BARRY C. JOHNSON (NAE), Villanova University
LARRY V. McINTIRE (NAE), Rice University
BRUCE ALBERTS (NAS), President, National Academy of Sciences
HARVEY FINEBERG (IOM), President, Institute of Medicine
GEORGE M.C. FISHER (NAE), Chairman, National Academy of
SHEILA E. WIDNALL (NAE), Vice President, National Academy of
WM. A. WULF (NAE), President, National Academy of Engineering
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
This report was reviewed by individuals chosen for their diverse
perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures
approved by the National Academies. The purpose of this independent
review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the
authoring committee and the NAE in making the published report as
sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional stan-
dards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the charge for this
activity. The contents of the review comments and draft manuscript
remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
JOHN A. ALIC, Consultant
DAVID P. BILLINGTON, Princeton University
JAMES J. DUDERSTADT, University of Michigan
SHERRA E. KERNS, Olin College
BINDU N. LAHANI, Asian Development Bank
EDWARD D. LAZOWSKA, University of Washington
IOANNIS N. MIAOULIS, Boston Museum of Science
CHERRY A. MURRAY, Lucent Technologies
ROBERT M. NEREM, Georgia Institute of Technology
SHERI SHEPPARD, Stanford University
C. DAN MOTE, JR., University of Maryland, College Park
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
The Engineer of 2020 Project centers on an effort to envision the
future and to use that knowledge to attempt to predict the roles that
engineers will play in the future. While of interest in itself, the exercise
is also intended to provide a framework that will be used in subsequent
work to position engineering education in the United States for what
lies ahead, rather than waiting for time to pass and then trying to
respond. This initiative is not unique in that other groups have some-
what similar efforts under way or have recently completed them. The
work of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) differs in that it
considers the issues with respect to all the diverse branches of engineer-
ing and examines them from the broadest possible perspective. Its
principal focus is on the future of undergraduate engineering education
in this country, although it is appreciated that to understand the full
perspective engineering practice and engineering education must be
considered in a global context.
Originated and chartered by the NAE’s Committee on Engineering
Education, the project consists of two parts, the first relating to the
development of a vision for engineering and the work of the engineer in
2020. This phase of the work culminates with this report. The second
part, which is yet to be completed, is to examine engineering education
and ask what it needs to do to prepare engineers for the future. This
report will be used to frame the discussions of the second phase.
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
A steering committee for the project was established in December
2001 by the NAE president to guide the work. The committee met four
times over the course of the following year and developed a plan for a
three-day workshop on the future of engineering that was held in Woods
Hole, Massachusetts, in fall 2002. Thirty-five participants took part in
the workshop representing a range of different disciplines, age groups,
and points of view (see Appendix B). Keynote addresses were given by
Phil Condit, Bran Ferren, and Shirley Ann Jackson.
At the outset it was agreed that predicting the future with any exac-
titude is not possible. Hence, scenario-based strategic planning was used
to help the participants think broadly about events and issues that could
shape the future. Peter Schwartz, a well-known author and strategic
planning consultant, served as moderator and facilitator. During the
course of the workshop, four scenarios were considered, each of which
was thought to capture trends that could dramatically affect the way the
future would unfold. All of the scenarios recognized that pending break-
throughs in technology from fields like nanotechnology, biotechnology,
materials, computing, and logistics would be factors engendering change
regardless of other conditions. It was understood that 2020 might re-
flect any one of the scenarios, some combination of them, or none of
them. Their purpose was primarily realized through the process, which
helped expand our appreciation of possibilities for the future and as-
sisted in thinking about the future of engineering in these terms. The
scenarios examine transformational changes that could derive from life-
altering developments across several technological fronts, dramatic
breakthroughs in biotechnology, a major natural disaster, and world
division driven by growth in religious fundamentalism.
After the workshop, members of the steering committee were
assigned the task of writing the report. A final meeting of the committee
was held in December 2002 to critique the work of the writing groups.
The final draft report was informed using the workshop keynote pre-
sentations, discussions, and scenarios as well as a steering committee
consensus about new technologies that are likely to significantly influ-
ence the future course of engineering. Following the last meeting, a
smaller group of the steering committee took on the task of editing the
report for publication.
It is notable that this report posits a statement of aspirations for the
engineer of 2020 and closes with a statement of attributes thought suit-
able for the engineer of 2020 that match the aspirations. The final two
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
chapters express a bold optimism for the engineering profession if it is
willing to confront the possibilities for the future and prepare for it.
Ahead lies the challenge of considering what engineering students
should learn in the university to prepare for the future and how this
might differ from what is taught today. This effort will take place over
the course of the coming year through a new workshop and continuing
work of the steering committee.
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Executive Summary
1 Technological Context of Engineering Practice
2 Societal, Global, and Professional Contexts of Engineering
3 Aspirations for the Engineer of 2020
4 Attributes of Engineers in 2020
Appendix A: Scenarios
Appendix B: Workshop Attendees
Appendix C: Biographical Sketches of Committee Members
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Executive Summary
In the past, changes in the engineering profession and engineering
education have followed changes in technology and society. Disciplines
were added and curricula were created to meet the critical challenges in
society and to provide the workforce required to integrate new develop-
ments into our economy. Today’s landscape is little different; society
continually changes and engineering must adapt to remain relevant.
But we must ask if it serves the nation well to permit the engineering
profession and engineering education to lag technology and society,
especially as technological change occurs at a faster and faster pace.
Rather, should the engineering profession anticipate needed advances
and prepare for a future where it will provide more benefit to human-
kind? Likewise, should engineering education evolve to do the same?
Technology has shifted the societal framework by lengthening our
life spans, enabling people to communicate in ways unimaginable in
the past, and creating wealth and economic growth by bringing the
virtues of innovation and enhanced functionality to the economy in
ever-shorter product development cycles. Even more remarkable
opportunities are fast approaching through new developments in
nanotechnology, logistics, biotechnology, and high-performance com-
puting. At the same time, with tightening global linkages, new
challenges and opportunities are emerging as a consequence of rapidly
improving technological capabilities in such nations as India and China
and the threat of terrorism around the world.
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
This report is the result of an initiative of the National Academy of
Engineering that attempts to prepare for the future of engineering by
asking the question, “What will or should engineering be like in 2020?”
Will it be a reflection of the engineering of today and its past growth
patterns or will it be fundamentally different? Most importantly, can
the engineering profession play a role in shaping its own future? Can a
future be created where engineering has a broadly recognized image that
celebrates the exciting roles that engineering and engineers play in
addressing societal and technical challenges? How can engineers best be
educated to be leaders, able to balance the gains afforded by new tech-
nologies with the vulnerabilities created by their byproducts without
compromising the well-being of society and humanity? Will engineer-
ing be viewed as a foundation that prepares citizens for a broad range of
creative career opportunities? Will engineering reflect and celebrate the
diversity of all the citizens in our society? Whatever the answers to these
questions, without doubt, difficult problems and opportunities lie ahead
that will call for engineering solutions and the talents of a creative
engineering mind-set.
Because precise predictions of the future are difficult at best, the
committee approached its charge using the technique of scenario-based
planning. The benefit of the scenario approach was that it eliminated
the need to develop a consensus view of a single future and opened
thinking to include multiple possibilities. This technique has proven its
worth for private and public entities alike in helping devise flexible
strategies that can adapt to changing conditions. Specific scenarios con-
sidered in this project were (1) The Next Scientific Revolution, (2) The
Biotechnology Revolution in a Societal Context, (3) The Natural World
Interrupts the Technology Cycle, and (4) Global Conflict or Globaliza-
tion? The story form of each scenario is presented in Appendix A. These
sometimes colorful versions only partially capture the vigorous dis-
cussions and debates that took place, but they serve to illustrate and
document the thinking involved in the process. Each in its own way
informed the deliberations about possibilities that can shape the role
that engineering will play in the future.
The “next scientific revolution” scenario offers an optimistic future
where change is principally driven by developments in technology. It is
assumed that the future will follow a predictable path where technologies
that are on the horizon today are developed to a state where they can be
used in commercial applications and their role is optimized to the
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
benefit of society. As in the past, engineers will exploit new science to
develop technologies that benefit humankind, and in others they will
create new technologies de novo that demand new science to fully
understand them. The importance of technology continues to grow in
society as new developments are commercialized and implemented.
The “biotechnology revolution” scenario speaks to a specific area of
science and engineering that holds great potential but considers a per-
spective where political and societal implications could intervene in its
use. In this version of the future, issues that impact technological change
beyond the scope of engineering become significant, as seen in the
current debate over the use of transgenic foods. While the role of
engineering is still of prime importance, the impact of societal attitudes
and politics reminds us that the ultimate use of a new technology and
the pace of its adoption are not always a simple matter.
The “natural world” scenario recognizes that events originating
beyond man’s control, such as natural disasters, can still be a determi-
nate in the future. While in this case the role of future engineers and
new technologies will be important to speeding a recovery from a
disastrous event, it also can help in improving our ability to predict risk
and adapt systems to prepare for the possibilities to minimize impact.
For example, there is the likely possibility that computational power
will improve such that accurate long-range weather predictions will be
possible for relatively small geographic areas. This will allow defensive
designs to be developed and customized for local conditions.
The final scenario examines the influence of global changes, as these
can impact the future through conflict or, more broadly, through
globalization. Engineering is particularly sensitive to such issues because
it speaks through an international language of mathematics, science,
and technology. Today’s environment, with issues related to terrorism
and job outsourcing, illustrates why this scenario is useful to consider in
planning for the future.
The body of the report begins in Chapter 1 with a review designed
to set the stage for likely future technological changes and challenges
that will impact the world and the engineering profession. Dramatic
expansion of knowledge is expected that will offer exciting opportuni-
ties for engineering to develop new technologies to address the problems
faced by society. The impact will be seen in medical breakthroughs, new
energy devices, materials with characteristics not available today,
remarkable light sources, and next-generation computers and tele-
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
communications developments. Engineering has contributed enor-
mously to the quality of life we enjoy today, and the opportunities for
the future are likely to be ever greater. The challenges include, among
others, deteriorating infrastructure, environmental issues, and providing
housing, water, and health care for a rapidly growing population.
Chapter 2 addresses the societal, geopolitical, and professional con-
texts within which engineering and its new technologies will exist. The
coming era will be characterized by rapid population growth, which will
contain internal dynamics that affect the types of problems engineers
will face as well as world stability. Growth will be concentrated in less
developed countries where a “youth bulge” will occur, while in advanced
countries the population will age. Issues related to quality of life in some
countries will be contrasted with more basic problems like access to
water and housing in others. Within countries the demographics will
change, particularly in the United States, where the numbers of minori-
ties will grow rapidly while those of the traditional majority will decline
in a relative sense. This has major implications for the future of engineer-
ing, a profession where minorities and women remain underrepresented.
While certain basics of engineering will not change, the global
economy and the way engineers will work will reflect an ongoing evolu-
tion that began to gain momentum a decade ago. The economy in which
we will work will be strongly influenced by the global marketplace for
engineering services, a growing need for interdisciplinary and system-
based approaches, demands for customerization, and an increasingly
diverse talent pool. The steady integration of technology in our infra-
structure and lives calls for more involvement by engineers in the set-
ting of public policy and in participation in the civic arena. The external
forces in society, the economy, and the professional environment pose
imperatives for change that may exceed those to come from the changes
expected in the technology engineers will have at their disposal in 2020.
Challenges will abound, but opportunities also will exist if engineering
takes the initiative to prepare for the future.
Chapter 3 builds on the context of the earlier chapters with a state-
ment of aspirations for engineering in 2020. Its purpose is to identify
those basic themes we can agree are worth striving for if engineering is
to be a positive force in the future. The range of possibilities as con-
trasted with the realities makes this no easy task. As illustrated by the
scenarios, they can be constrained by outside forces as well as by our
own inaction. The aspirations chosen set the bar high but are believed
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
to be attainable if a course of action is set to reach them. At their core
they call for us to educate engineers who are broadly educated, who see
themselves as global citizens, who can be leaders in business and public
service, and who are ethically grounded.
Chapter 4 takes the aspirations a step further by setting forth the
attributes needed for the graduates of 2020. These include such traits as
strong analytical skills, creativity, ingenuity, professionalism, and
This study suggests that if the engineering profession is to take the
initiative in defining its own future, it must (1) agree on an exciting
vision for its future; (2) transform engineering education to help achieve
the vision; (3) build a clear image of the new roles for engineers, includ-
ing as broad-based technology leaders, in the mind of the public and
prospective students who can replenish and improve the talent base of
an aging engineering workforce; (4) accommodate innovative develop-
ments from nonengineering fields; and (5) find ways to focus the
energies of the different disciplines of engineering toward common
If the United States is to maintain its economic leadership and be
able to sustain its share of high-technology jobs, it must prepare for a
new wave of change. While there is no consensus at this stage, it is
agreed that innovation is the key and engineering is essential to this
task; but engineering will only contribute to success if it is able to
continue to adapt to new trends and educate the next generation of
students so as to arm them with the tools needed for the world as it will
be, not as it is today.
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Technological Context of
Engineering Practice
Engineering is a profoundly creative process. A most elegant
description is that engineering is about design under constraint. The
engineer designs devices, components, subsystems, and systems and, to
create a successful design, in the sense that it leads directly or indirectly
to an improvement in our quality of life, must work within the con-
straints provided by technical, economic, business, political, social, and
ethical issues. Technology is the outcome of engineering; it is rare that
science translates directly to technology, just as it is not true that
engineering is just applied science. Historically, technological advances,
such as the airplane, steam engine, and internal combustion engine,
have occurred before the underlying science was developed to explain
how they work. Yet, of course, when such explanations were forth-
coming, they helped drive refinements that made the technology more
valuable still.
Technological innovations occur when a need arises or an oppor-
tunity presents itself. They occur as a result of private initiative or
government intervention. Most important for this study is that they are
occurring at an astonishing pace, especially those in information and
communications technology, which are most apparent to the public,
and this has important implications for engineering practice and engi-
neering education in the future. Totally unexpected scientific findings
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
can suggest new technologies as well, and hence any discussion of the
future of engineering must ponder scientific breakthroughs that might
occur along the way.
In his groundbreaking book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,
Thomas Kuhn (1970) helped us see that science advances through two
quite different dynamics. Ordinary science fills in the details of a land-
scape that is largely known. Every once in a while the problems of the
contemporary world view become so unworkable that reinventing the
map is needed. For example, the recognition that continents moved
slowly over the surface of the earth solved many problems that a model
of a static planet made unsolvable. This recognition led to a reconcep-
tualization and new perception of reality.
One of the questions our view of the world answers is how things
are connected and put together. The familiar model is a building con-
structed of diverse components assembled in a fixed pattern. The other
familiar model is a fluid, like a river, with a rapidly changing shape
formed by local conditions. An emerging model of order is the network.
In a universe of superstrings and soft boundaries for molecules, net-
work-like connections among things may provide a useful new ordering
principle. Networks have unique properties, such as self-organization,
and sometimes huge multiplier effects of many connecting to many.
Networks also have vulnerabilities, as demonstrated by the blackout in
the northeastern United States in August 2003.
We are also seeing a new relationship between the macroscopic
world we inhabit every day and the microscopic world at a molecular,
atomic, and even subatomic level. Once we could describe events in our
observable world by fairly simple mathematical rules, say the trajectory
of a baseball hit out of a baseball park, but the very small was imprecise,
uncertain, and statistical. Now new tools and mathematics enable us to
enjoy a similar level of precision, certainty, and uniqueness even at the
smallest imaginable scales. We have, for example, recently discovered
how to encode data in the spin of an electron inside an atom—in other
words, subatomic data storage (Awschalom et al., 2002).
Both the exquisite sensitivity of biological function to the precise
sequencing of base pairs of DNA and the mathematics of chaos lead to a
view that small actions matter in giving form to things and order to
events. What we do actually matters to history. The future really is the
result of choices made today. It is not merely the random concatenation
of mechanically predetermined events or the statistical result of acci-
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
dents along the way. And while we are alike in many ways that define
our common humanity, the path dependence of complex systems tells
us that each of us is also unique.
In the old world view it took a builder to make a machine. Some-
one outside with a plan and the ability to assemble the parts is needed to
get to a new machine. In the new world view, self-replication is a new
model of change. In biology, self-replication is the norm, whether by
simple mechanisms like cell division or more complex sexual methods.
Now in nanotechnology and potentially in very smart computer
systems, we are beginning to contemplate self-replication in nonorganic
systems, and, indeed, runaway self-replication is seen as a threat by some.
The universe, as now understood, is vastly different than both the
one Newton described and the one we “knew” as little as 50 years ago.
Soon our world view may be distinct from that of Einstein and Bohr.
Yet in this dynamic and confusing milieu, it is not clear which technical
trends will move forward in a predictable fashion and which will burst
forward as a revolution, forcing us to reconceptualize and reperceive our
view of engineering. It is a daunting challenge for the engineering
profession and engineering education to remain flexible enough to
anticipate such changes or, if anticipation fails, to respond as rapidly as
Change is constant, but on an absolute basis our world has changed
more in the past 100 years than in all those preceding. By the end of the
20th century, the developed world had become a healthier, safer, and
more productive place; a place where engineering, through technology,
had forged an irreversible imprint on our lives and our identity. The
Swiss engineer Jurgen Mittelstrass once termed the present technology-
dominated world as the “Leonardoworld,” to contrast with the time
long past where human life was dominated by the natural world
(Mittelstrass, 2001). There are many positive aspects of this new
world—longer and healthier lives, improved work and living conditions,
global communications, ease of transit, and access to art and culture—
and this is true for the masses in the developed world instead of only a
privileged few. Making it true for the masses in the developing world is
one of the great moral and ethical challenges for society as a whole but
for engineers in particular.
Looking forward to further changes in science and technology, per-
haps revolutionary changes, we are limited by our inability to see the
future, but our imagination is reflected in the scenarios in Appendix A.
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Turning to reality, though, the best we can do is look at recent and
emergent advances, like those in biotechnology, nanotechnology, infor-
mation and communications technology, materials science, and
photonics to provide a possible template of the changes engineering will
need to contend with in 2020.
Exciting breakthroughs in our understanding of human physiology
have been among the most captivating topics of public discussion over
the past several decades. It is the potential to attack diseases and disorders
at the cell and DNA levels that leads some to believe that diseases, as
currently known, may be eradicated and that compensations for many
of the limitations of the human body (e.g., those related to aging or
hormonal changes) will be available.
Advances in biotechnology have already significantly improved the
quality of our lives, but even more dramatic breakthroughs are likely.
Research in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine may lead to
new technology that will allow our bodies to replace injured or diseased
parts without invasive surgery, but rather by using the natural growth
processes inherent in cells. Already used extensively to help burn victims
grow replacement skin, it is possible that related developments will allow
spinal cord injury victims to restore full mobility and feeling by
reconnecting tissues and nerves.
Linked with new developments in nanotechnology and micro-
electronic mechanical systems (MEMS), we may see the use of nanoscale
robots, or nanobots, to repair tissue tears or clean clogged arteries.
Nanobots might be used to target drugs that can destroy cancers or
change cell structures to combat genetically inherited diseases.
Bioinformatics will likely take advantage of improved computing
capabilities that use the human genome database to allow drugs to be
customized for each individual. A drug that might be fatal for one per-
son could be well suited for curing another’s disease, depending on their
specific genetic makeup.
The intersection of medical knowledge and engineering has
spawned new biomedical engineering research and curricula that have
helped create or refine products such as pacemakers, artificial organs,
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
prosthetic devices, laser eye surgery, an array of sophisticated imaging
systems, and fiber-optic-assisted noninvasive surgical techniques. In the
future, ongoing developments will expand beyond the application of
medical advances toward tighter connections between technology and
the human experience. For example, embedded devices that aid com-
munication or devices that monitor organ functions and provide
meaningful information to the user will be available. New-century
products will also be exquisitely tailored to match the physical dimen-
sions and capabilities of the user. Bio-inspired computer researchers are
already investigating virus protection architectures that mimic the
human viral defense system, and pattern recognition researchers are
developing algorithms that mimic the visioning processes observed in
humans and other species (National Research Council, 2001). Ergo-
nomic design and an eye on other physical and mental health influences
of engineered products will be an underlying theme across all engineer-
ing disciplines.
There are already engineers engaged in the emerging fields of tissue
engineering, drug delivery engineering, bio-inspired computing, and a
range of other biotechnological pursuits. As research activities mature,
efforts to transition the new knowledge from laboratory products into
marketable products will increase and so too will the involvement of
engineers. Products will increasingly support commoditized biosystems,
ranging from artificial organs and implantable devices to other “sustain-
ing systems.” Where technology and life converge, considerations of
safety and reliability become paramount. There will be new require-
ments for engineers to acquire basic knowledge about biological systems
and to pay increased attention to areas such as fault-tolerant designs to
mitigate liability concerns. The design of biotech products will require
knowledge that crosses multiple disciplines (e.g., materials development,
computing applications, automated biological processes) in a compel-
ling example of the value of interdisciplinary engineering.
Engineering will also wrestle with problems that today are rooted in
biology and chemistry on the microscale. Ongoing concerns about
chemical and biological weapons will demand that engineers of all kinds
have more than a passing knowledge of these subjects. Future civil engi-
neers (or at least those engineers with the requisite knowledge however
designated in 2020) will know about transport characteristics of bio-
logical and chemical agents and their diffusivity in air and water sup-
plies. Mechanical engineers will devise pumps and filters that are able to
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
deal with a wide variety of airborne and waterborne chemical or
biological agents. Electrical engineers will design sensing and detection
instruments capable of providing early warning of the presence of such
“Nanoengineering” to create and manufacture structures and
materials on a molecular level will continue as a focus for the next few
generations of engineers. Nanoscience and nanoengineering draw on
multiple fields, as reflected in applications in bioengineering (e.g.,
genetic and molecular engineering), materials science (composites and
engineered materials), and electronics (quantum-scale optical and
electrical structures). Nanostructures have been proposed as environ-
mental cleaning agents, chemical detection agents, for the creation of
biological (or artificial) organs, for the development of nanoelectronic
mechanical systems (NEMS), and for the development of ultrafast,
ultradense electrical and optical circuits. In a marriage of engineering
and biology to create synthetic biology, efforts are proceeding to create a
suite of fundamental tools and techniques to fabricate biological devices,
analogous to those used to create microelectronic devices (Ball, 2001;
National Research Council, 2003).
The federal government has created the U.S. National Nano-
technology Initiative and in fiscal year 2004 will provide almost $1 billion
in research and development funding (see Table 1). The grand chal-
lenges identified for this initiative illustrate the breadth of the potential
of this new field.
Materials Science and Photonics
Even in traditional areas of engineering, like bridge and automotive
design, civil and mechanical engineers will increasingly need to under-
stand new materials that can be used in composites, atomic-scale
machines, and molecular-based nanostructures. Smart materials and
structures, which have the capability of sensing and responding, for
example, to displacements caused by earthquakes and explosions, will
be used increasingly. If the present petroleum economy is replaced by a
hydrogen economy, fuel cells will replace the internal combustion engine
and batteries as power sources, and a general understanding of fuel-cell-
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
TABLE 1 Challenges Identified for the National Nanotechnology
Time Frame
Strategic Challenge
• Pigments in paints
• Cutting tools and wear resistant coatings
• Pharmaceuticals and drugs
• Nanoscale particles and thin films in electronic devices
• Jewelry, optical, and semiconductor wafer polishing
• Biosensors, transducers, and detectors
• Functional designer fluids
• Propellants, nozzles, and valves
• Flame retardant additives
• Drug delivery, biomagnetic separation, and wound healing
• Nano-optical, nanoelectronics, and nanopower sources
• High-end flexible displays
• Nano-bio materials as artificial organs
• NEMS-based devices
• Faster switches and ultra-sensitive sensors
SOURCE: Adapted from National Research Council (2002).
powered engines, fuel-cell chemistry, and the materials of fuel cells will
be needed. Moreover, as smart materials are used in advanced products,
material properties based on mechanical, optical, and electromagnetic
interactions become core knowledge topics that support effective engi-
neering practice.
As the physical sizes of optical sources decrease while their power
and reliability continue to increase, photonics-based technologies will
become more significant in engineered products and systems. Fiber
optics communications, precision manufacturing applications (e.g., pre-
cision cutting, visioning, sensing), and applications employing free space
line-of-sight optical links, laser guidance, and optical sensing and
monitoring will continue to advance (Board on Chemical Sciences and
Technology, 2003; Suhir, 2000).
Information and Communications Technology
To appreciate the potential of information technology, one has only
to consider the remarkable changes that have taken place in U.S. society
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
in the past few decades. Today young adults cannot imagine life without
computers, video conferencing, mobile phones, copiers, and the
Internet, and most of us who are old enough to have lived without them
appreciate them even more. What will happen in the foreseeable future?
Today a 1-gigabit hard drive ships in a package 1 × 1 × 1/ inches; soon
that will be a 10-gigabit drive, and computers small enough to fit into
trouser pockets will be able to contain information that would fill a
modern library (Feldman, 2001). The speed and computing power of
future desktop machines and software will enable design and simulation
capabilities that will make the routine activities of contemporary engi-
neers obsolete, thus freeing them for ever more creative tasks. The world
will be networked with broadband communications, allowing huge
volumes of information to be transmitted at high data rates for real-
time collaboration between engineering design centers anywhere,
reshaping our perceptions of connectedness, location, and access. As
early as the 1960s, the Advanced Research Project Agency research
community began to imagine a world where networks of computer
workstations could connect to each other, sharing data, working in
parallel on common problems, and advancing computing power to new
heights (Brand, 1972; Gates, 1996; Goldberg, 1988). In the developed
world, because of the Internet, this is the world we live in today. Every-
thing will, in some sense, be “smart”; that is, every product, every service,
and every bit of infrastructure will be attuned to the needs of the humans
it serves and will adapt its behavior to those needs.
For engineering the imperative to accommodate connectivity
establishes an integral role for core competencies related to electronics,
electromagnetics, photonics, and the underlying discrete as well as
continuous mathematics. Core competencies in materials and the
cultivation of skills related to the use of information technology for
communications purposes are also indicated. Engineers and engineering
will seek to optimize the benefits derived from a unified appreciation of
the physical, psychological, and emotional interactions between
information technology and humans. As engineers seek to create
products to aid physical and other activities, the strong research base in
physiology, ergonomics, and human interactions with computers will
expand to include cognition, the processing of information, and physi-
ological responses to electrical, mechanical, and optical stimulation.
Given the expected role of computers in the future, it is essential
that engineers of all disciplines have a deep working knowledge of the
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
fundamentals of digital systems as well as fluency in using contempo-
rary computer systems and tools. Many, if not all, engineering systems
in the future will be digital systems. Advances in computing and simu-
lation, coupled with technologies that mimic rudimentary attributes in
analysis, may radically redefine common practices in engineering. There
will be growth in areas of simulation and modeling around the creation
of new engineering “structures.” Computer-based design-build engi-
neering, such as was done with the Boeing 777 and is commonly done
in civil engineering, will become the norm for most product designs,
accelerating the creation of complex structures for which multiple sub-
systems combine to form a final product.
The Information Explosion
Surrounding all these technologies is the growth of data and knowl-
edge at an exponential rate. A few hundred years ago it was conceivable
for a person to be conversant about much of the science, mathematics,
medicine, music, and art of the day. Today, in an age of specialization,
an individual’s area of expertise continues to diminish in relation to the
total body of technical knowledge. The health care field offers a daunt-
ing example of the future; there will be more new knowledge created in
the next few years than in all previous history. Beginning in the early
1990s, data management requirements in life sciences-based engineer-
ing activities began to outpace Moore’s law (see Figure 1). These data
will drive and be driven by the biotechnology revolution. Memory access
rates and manipulation of databases will represent an ongoing challenge
to efficiently and effectively mine these data.
In the past, engineering responded to the explosion in knowledge
by continually developing and spawning new areas of focus in the
various engineering disciplines. As more of these areas arise, the depth
of individual knowledge increases, but the breadth can dramatically
decrease. This poses a challenge to an engineering future where
interdisciplinarity will likely be critical to the solution of complex
The combination of wireless connectivity, handheld computers, and
inventory tracking and database software has modernized logistics.
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Advanced estimate
personalized therapeutic design (combinatorial/cartridge)
“Virtual humans” – routine metabolic, physiological,
and anatomical modeling per patient
Base imaging
modeling drug-to-patience polymorphic proteins
routine genomics/proteomics on records
personalized therapeutic selections
routine pharmacogenomics
routine telemedicine
digital patient records
digital imaging
2000 2002 2004
2006 2008 2010
2001 2003 20 05 2007 2009
FIGURE 1 Life sciences data management requirements. Advanced Imaging: Opti-
mistic projections assuming 5 × 107 accessible population with each person requiring
82 × 109 bytes by 2010–2012. This is primarily based on an assumption that advanced
3D/4D imaging capabilities hold ~80% of medical storage. Base Estimate: Assumes
clinical and biomedical use will be at least 30% of 2010 total world storage, conserva-
tively set at 100 petabytes. Downplays advanced imaging capabilities.
SOURCE: Copyright International Business Machines Corporation, 2004.
Companies in the transportation sector were the first to embrace logis-
tics as a tool to help organize activities while improving productivity.
Manufacturing and retail companies as diverse as Ford, Boeing, Intel,
and Wal-Mart are heavily dependent on logistics to link together their
far-flung networks of suppliers and manufacturing units. Especially in
the past decade, outsourcing and “just-in-time” manufacturing have
turned logistics into a tightly balanced ballet that allows companies to
work across continents to develop products and deliver them at the
right time and place around the world. Market success or failure hangs
in the balance.
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Logistics is being taught in an increasing number of engineering
curricula and is steadily becoming a more sophisticated field. It has led
to the creation of new jobs for engineers in industries and companies
that traditionally did not employ them. The challenge of moving goods
and services more efficiently will likely engage engineering up to and
through 2020.
The engineer of 2020 will need to be conversant with and embrace
a whole realm of new technologies, but some old problems are not going
to go away. They will demand new attention and, perhaps, new tech-
nologies. In some cases their continuing neglect will move them from
problems to crises.
Physical Infrastructures in Urban Settings
Previous approaches to urban development reflected attention to
human services and private-sector requirements without a sufficient
focus on environmental impact and sustainability. The result is that
many large cities today are victims of pollution, traffic and transporta-
tion infrastructure concerns, decreasing greenery, poor biodiversity, and
disparate educational services. In general, though, the United States has
arguably had the best physical infrastructure in the developed world.
The concern is that these infrastructures are in serious decline, and hence
aging water treatment, waste disposal, transportation, and energy facili-
ties are among the top concerns for public officials and citizens alike. In
2003 the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) issued an update
to its 2001 report card on America’s aging infrastructure. Each category
in the ASCE reports was evaluated on the basis of condition and perfor-
mance, capacity versus need, and funding versus need. The assessments
do not include security enhancements as no authoritative data on these
upgrades are available. The 2003 report gives America an overall grade
of D+ on its physical infrastructure and estimates that $1.6 trillion
would be needed to restore it over the five-year period beginning in
2004 (see Table 2).
The 2001 report card (see Table 3) provides additional detail. The
longer these investments are pushed into the future, the more likely the
state of deteriorating infrastructures will reach crisis proportions. Engi-
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
TABLE 2 America’s Aging Infrastructure, 2003
Trend (since 2001)





Drinking Water



Solid waste

Hazardous waste

Navigable waterways


America’s Infrastructure GPA
• Total Investment
$1.6 Trillion
(estimated five-year need)
SOURCE: Adapted from American Society of Civil Engineers (2003).
neering is ideally positioned to help address these issues given the will of
public leaders and the general public to make the required investments.
The arrows in the rightmost column of Table 2 indicate how the state of
the infrastructure has changed since the 2001 report; horizontal arrows
indicate no change, and an arrow pointing down indicates further
Information and Communications Infrastructure
Because it is of more recent vintage, the nation’s information and
telecommunications infrastructure has not suffered nearly as much
degradation due to the ravages of time, but vulnerabilities due to
accidental or intentional events are well recognized and are a serious
concern. Recent evidence has shown that malicious attacks (such as
computer viruses and denial of service attacks), system overloads (as in
the case of the disruptions in wireless phone service in the aftermath of
the September 11 attacks), and natural disasters (such as hurricanes and
earthquakes, which disrupt the electricity grid that underlies the infor-
mation and communications infrastructure), can have a profound
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
TABLE 3 America’s Aging Infrastructure, 2001
One-third of the nation’s major roads are in poor or
mediocre condition, costing American drivers an
estimated $5.8 billion per year.
As of 1998, 29 percent of the nation’s bridges were
structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, an
improvement from 31 percent in 1996.
Transit ridership has increased 15 percent since 1995.
Capital spending must increase 41 percent just to
maintain the system in its present condition.
Airport capacity has increased only 1 percent in the
past 10 years, while air traffic increased 37 percent
during that time. Congestion also jeopardizes safety—
there were 429 runway incursions (“near misses”)
reported in 2000, up 25 percent from 1999.
Due to either aging/outdated facilities or severe
overcrowding, 75 percent of our nation’s school
buildings are inadequate to meet the needs of
schoolchildren. The average cost of capital investment
needed is $3,800 per student, more than half the
average cost to educate a student for one year. Since
1998 the total need has increased from $112 billion to
$127 billion.
Drinking Water
The nation’s 54,000 drinking water systems face an
annual shortfall of $11 billion needed to replace
facilities that are nearing the end of their useful life and
to comply with federal water regulations.
The nation’s 16,000 wastewater systems face enormous
needs. Some sewer systems are 100 years old.
Currently, there is a $12 billion annual shortfall in
funding for infrastructure needs in this category.
Since 1990, actual capacity has increased only about
7,000 megawatts (MW) per year, an annual shortfall of
30 percent. More than 10,000 MW of capacity will
have to be added each year until 2008 to keep up with
the 1.8 percent annual growth in demand.
Hazardous Waste
Effective regulation and enforcement have largely
halted the contamination of new sites. Aided by the
best cleanup technology in the world, the rate of
Superfund cleanup has quickened—though not
enough to keep pace with the number of new sites
listed as the backlog of potential sites is assessed.
SOURCE: Adapted from American Society of Civil Engineers (2003).
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
impact on our national economy, our national security, our lifestyles,
and our sense of personal security, if not our actual personal security
(Computer Science Telecommunications Board, 2003). It falls to both
the public and the private sectors to develop strategies and take actions
to continually update the infrastructure to keep pace with technological
advances, to increase capacity to respond to the rapid growth in infor-
mation and communications technology-related services, to develop and
design systems with a global perspective, to work to increase security
and reliability, and to consider issues of privacy (Crishna et al., 2000).
These actions will clearly involve legal, regulatory, economic, business,
and social considerations, but engineering innovation is and will remain
a critical factor in the effort to operate, expand, devise upgrades to, and
reduce the vulnerabilities of these systems.
The Environment
A number of natural resource and environmental concerns will
frame our world’s challenges for the 21st century. For example, in 2020
the state of California will need the equivalent of 40 percent more
electrical capacity, 40 percent more gasoline, and 20 percent more
natural gas energy than was needed in the year 2000 (California
Business, Transportation, and Housing Agency, 2001). Global per capita
forest area is projected to fall to one-third of its 1990 value by 2020
(Forest and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1995),
and most of this reduction will be due to population growth in tropical
areas and shrinking forest area. Forty-eight countries containing a total
of 2.8 billion people could face freshwater shortages by 2025
(Hinrichsen et al., 1997).
The question of water is at the heart of a 600-page world water
development report recently issued by the United Nations (2003). The
report projects that within the next 20 years virtually every nation in the
world will face some type of water supply problem. Water tables are
falling in China, India, and the United States, which together produce
half the world’s food. Presently it is estimated that more than a billion
people have little access to clean drinking water and that 2 billion live in
conditions of water scarcity. In their article Who Owns Water, Barlow
and Clarke (2002) write: “Quite simply, unless we dramatically change
our ways, between one-half and two-thirds of humanity will be living
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
with severe fresh water shortages within the next quarter century.” Water
supplies will affect the future of the world’s economy and its stability.
If we are to preserve our environment for future generations (see
Chapter 2) we must develop and implement more ecologically sustain-
able practices as we seek to achieve economic prosperity. Sustainable
practices must proceed apace in industrialized countries and developing
countries alike. If sustainability is pursued only in industrialized
countries, where the resources are available, they will remain islands in a
sea of environmentally bereft developing countries. It is becoming
increasingly apparent, though, that design criteria and standards suitable
for industrialized countries must be adjusted for the local conditions in
developed countries if sustainability projects hope to succeed. The
engineer of 2020 will have to understand how to adapt solutions, in an
ethical way, to the constraints of developing countries.
The fossil fuel supply, global warming, depletion of the ozone layer,
misdistribution of water use, and the loss of forests have been described
by some as “extinction-level” crises (Hinrichsen and Robey, 2000). It is
difficult to know how the flow of resources will vary over the next several
decades, but it is certain that, along with conservation, technological
innovation must be part of the solution to circumvent, or at least
mitigate, these crises. Engineering practices must incorporate attention
to sustainable technology, and engineers need to be educated to consider
issues of sustainability in all aspects of design and manufacturing.
As codified at a recent conference on sustainability, green engineer-
ing is the design, commercialization, and use of processes and products
that are feasible and economical while minimizing the generation of
pollution at the source and the risk to human health and the environ-
ment (National Science Foundation, 2003). The discipline embraces
the concept that decisions to protect human health and the environ-
ment can have the greatest impact and cost effectiveness when applied
early to the design and development phase of a process or product.
Table 4 presents the nine guiding principles developed at the Green
Engineering: Defining Principles Conference (National Science Founda-
tion, 2003). The principles point to systems-based strategies and holistic
approaches that embed social and cultural objectives into the traditional
engineering focus on technical and economic viability.
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
TABLE 4 Guiding Principles in Green Engineering
Engineer processes and products holistically, use systems analysis, and integrate
environmental impact assessment tools.
Conserve and improve natural ecosystems while protecting human health and well-
Use life-cycle thinking in all engineering activities.
Ensure that all material and energy inputs and outputs are as inherently safe and
benign as possible.
Minimize depletion of natural resources.
Strive to prevent waste.
Develop and apply engineering solutions while being cognizant of local geography,
aspirations, and cultures.
Create engineering solutions beyond current or dominant technologies; improve,
innovate, and invent (technologies) to achieve sustainability.
Actively engage communities and stakeholders in the development of engineering
SOURCE: Adapted from National Science Foundation (2003).
Technology for an Aging Population
Engineering can be an agent for addressing the challenges of aging.
New technologies are on the horizon that can help aging citizens main-
tain healthy, productive lifestyles well beyond conventional retirement
age. One emerging area of study, assistive technology, has a central focus
on creating technologies that accommodate people of all ages who are
challenged by physical and other limitations. In an aging society, oppor-
tunities will grow in the area of assistive technology.
The Center for Aging Services Technologies (2003) has identified
several areas where future investment would significantly improve
services to aging patients. These include technologies, such as monitors,
sensors, robots, and smart housing, that would allow elder persons to
maintain independent lifestyles and alleviate the burdens placed on care
providers and government programs; operational technologies that
would help service providers reduce labor costs or prevent medical
errors; connective technologies that would help elderly patients
communicate with caregivers, families, and medical resources; and
telemedicine to provide basic or specialized services to patients in remote
locations or to amplify their access to a broad range of medical services.
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Assistive technology
includes technologies in education, rehabilitation, and
independent living to help, to change, or to train physically
challenged citizens. People of all ages with physical, cognitive,
and communication disorders, or a combination of disabilities,
may benefit from the application of assistive technologies.
The Technology Explosion
Since the late 19th century, when the major subdisciplines of engi-
neering began to emerge, engineers have been aware that solutions to
many societal problems lie at the interstices of subdisciplines. In 1960
the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of
Defense established Materials Research Centers (MRCs); later the
National Science Foundation assumed operation of the MRC program
and created Engineering Research Centers, both in recognition of the
value of providing an environment where engineers and scientists of
different backgrounds could join together to solve interdisciplinary
problems. As valuable as such centers are, students are still largely
assigned to and educated in a single department, and, as engineering
disciplines have proliferated and clearly delineated specialties within
those subdisciplines have evolved, providing a broad engineering educa-
tion to students has become an enormous challenge. This challenge will
only become more daunting as the information on new science and
technology continues to explode and new and totally unanticipated
technologies, requiring even more specialization, emerge in the future.
Engineering education must avoid the cliché of teaching more and more
about less and less, until it teaches everything about nothing. Address-
ing this problem may involve reconsideration of the basic structure of
engineering departments and the infrastructure for evaluating the
performance of professors as much as it does selecting the coursework
students should be taught.
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
The Pace of Change
Scientific and engineering knowledge doubles every 10 years
(Wright, 1999). This geometric growth rate has been reflected in an
accelerating rate of technology introduction and adoption. Product
cycles continue to decrease, and each cycle delivers more functional and
often less expensive versions of existing products, occasionally introduces
entirely new “disruptive” technologies, and makes older technologies
obsolete at an increasing rate. The comfortable notion that a person
learns all that he or she needs to know in a four-year engineering
program just is not true and never was. Not even the “fundamentals” are
fixed, as new technologies enter the engineer’s toolkit. Engineers are
going to have to accept responsibility for their own continual re-
education, and engineering schools are going to have to prepare
engineers to do so by teaching them how to learn. Engineering schools
should also consider organizational structures that will allow continuous
programmatic adaptation to satisfy the professional needs of the engi-
neering workforce that are changing at an increasing rate. Meeting the
demands of the rapidly changing workforce calls for reconsideration of
standards for faculty qualifications, appointments, and expectations.
The engineer of 2020 will be faced with myriad challenges, creating
offensive and defensive solutions at the macro- and microscales in prepa-
ration for possible dramatic changes in the world. Engineers will be
expected to anticipate and prepare for potential catastrophes such as
biological terrorism; water and food contamination; infrastructure
damage to roads, bridges, buildings, and the electricity grid; and com-
munications breakdown in the Internet, telephony, radio, and television.
Engineers will be asked to create solutions that minimize the risk of
complete failure and at the same time prepare backup solutions that
enable rapid recovery, reconstruction, and deployment. In short, they
will face problems qualitatively similar to those they already face today.
To solve the new problems, however, they can be expected to create
an array of new and possibly revolutionary tools and technologies. These
will embody the core knowledge and skills that will support effective
engineering education and a sense of engineering professionalism in the
new century. The challenge for the profession and engineering educa-
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
tion is to ensure that the core knowledge advances in information
technology, nanoscience, biotechnology, materials science, photonics
(Smerdon, 2002), and other areas yet to be discovered are delivered to
engineering students so they can leverage them to achieve inter-
disciplinary solutions to engineering problems in their engineering
practice. The rapidly changing nature of modern knowledge and tech-
nology will demand, even more so than today, that engineers so educated
must embrace continuing education as a career development strategy
with the same fervor that continuous improvement has been embraced
by the manufacturing community.
American Society of Civil Engineers. 2003. Report Card on America’s Aging Infrastructure.
Washington, D.C.: ASCE.
Awschalom, D.D., M.E. Flatté, and N. Samarth. 2002. Microelectronic devices that function
by using the spin of the electron are a nascent multibillion-dollar industry—and may
lead to quantum microchips. Available online at:
Ball, P. 2001. Biology Goes Back to the Drawing Board. Nature, February 12.
Barlow, M., and T. Clarke. 2002. Who Owns Water? The Nation, September 2. Available
online at:
Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology. 2003. Materials Science and Technology:
Challenges for the Chemical Sciences in the 21st Century. Washington, D.C.: The
National Academies Press.
Brand, S. 1972. Spacewar: Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Computer Bums.
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Societal, Global, and Professional Contexts
of Engineering Practice
The future is uncertain. However, one thing is clear: engineering
will not operate in a vacuum separate from society in 2020 any more
than it does now. Both on a macro scale, where the world’s natural
resources will be stressed by population increases, to the micro scale,
where engineers need to work in teams to be effective, consideration of
social issues is central to engineering. Political and economic relations
between nations and their peoples will impact engineering practice in
the future, probably to a greater extent than now. Attention to intellec-
tual property, project management, multilingual influences and cultural
diversity, moral/religious repercussions, global/international impacts,
national security, and cost-benefit constraints will continue to drive
engineering practice.
Population and Demographics
By the year 2020 the world’s population will approach 8 billion
people, and much of that increase will be among groups that today are
outside the developed nations1 (Central Intelligence Agency, 2001). Of
1Developed nations as defined by the World Bank are countries with a gross national
product equal to or greater than $10,000 per person.
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
the 1.5 billion people that the world’s population will gain by 2020,
most will be added to countries in Asia and Africa (see Figure 2). By
2015, and for the first time in history, the majority of people, mostly
poor (see Figure 3), will reside in urban centers, mostly in countries that
lack the economic, social, and physical infrastructures to support a
burgeoning population. By 2050, if work retirement patterns remain
the same, the ratio of taxpaying workers to nonworking pensioners in
the developed world will fall from 4:1 to 2:1. Hence, in 2020 the world
will be more crowded and will have more centers of dense population,
and the potential is high that many people will live in regions with
fewer technological resources. These factors present several challenges
for society and multiple opportunities for the application of thought-
fully constructed solutions through the work of engineers.
A review of the 2000 U.S. census indicates a proportional increase
in minority populations. During the 1990s, the combined populations
of African Americans, Native Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and
Hispanics/Latinos grew at 13 times the rate of the non-Hispanic white
population. Table 5 summarizes the demographic statistics by age,
gender, and race/ethnicity. Most notable is the increase in the number
of Hispanic Americans, which now surpasses the African American
population. The U.S. Hispanic population grew 58 percent between
1990 and 2000.
If current trends continue, Hispanic Americans will account for
17 percent of the U.S. population by 2020, and African Americans
12.8 percent. The percentage of whites will decline from the 2000 value
of 75.6 percent to 63.7 percent. Looking further into the future, by
2050, almost half of the U.S. population will be non-white (U.S. Census
Bureau, 2002). Thus, in 2020 and beyond, the engineering profession
will need to develop solutions that are acceptable to an increasingly
diverse population and will need to draw more students from sectors
that traditionally have not been well represented in the engineering
Health and Health Care
We cannot think about population growth and distribution in 2020
without considering human health and health care delivery. Citizens of
2020, as now, will look to their leaders to close the health care gaps
related to technology and access. Through the development of innova-
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Asia, 53%
- China, 19%
Europe, 3%
- India, 16%
Europe, 4%
East, 4%
Africa, 23%
- Sub-Sahara, 13%
Hemisphere, 13%
- U.S., 4%
Asia, 56%
- China, 19%
- India, 17%
Europe, 5%
Europe, 7%
East, 3%
Africa, 16%
- Sub-Sahara, 13%
Hemisphere, 13%
- U.S., 4%
FIGURE 2 Distribution of world population in a mix of 100 people in 2002 (upper)
and 2020 (lower). SOURCE: Adapted from Central Intelligence Agency (2001).
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
(in millions)
Urban Population 1000
1990 2000
Middle/Low Income
High Income
FIGURE 3 Urban population growth. SOURCE: Adapted from United Nations
tive strategies that support highly individualized volume production,
cost effectiveness, and sustainability, new engineering technologies may
provide an ideal avenue to make advanced medical technologies
accessible to a global population base. In the developed world, it is
plausible to believe that in 20 years pollution and air quality in urban
environments will be much improved, as will cleanup and control of
hazardous waste sites, and debilitating diseases, old and new, driven by
such environmental factors will have a much reduced impact on human
health. Health care delivery in developing countries will continue to lag
that in the developed world, but well-focused efforts to control AIDS
and malaria may meet with increasing success.
Thus, along with population growth, the demographics of the
world’s population will change. As new knowledge on health and health
care is created, shifts in life expectancies will lead to an increase in the
number of people living well beyond established retirement ages. In
2004, 20 percent of the people residing in Italy will be over age 65; by
2020, China, Australia, Russia, Canada, and the United States will face
a similar situation (Central Intelligence Agency, 2001). The impacts of
an aging society are multiple. First is the economic stress. In an aging
society, health and health care and quality of life are critical areas of
focus. Currently, citizens generally participate in the workforce until
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
, and Race/E
y Age, G
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nited S
reau (2002)u
opulation of the U
om U.S. Census B
esident PR
CE: Adapted fr
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American I
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
they reach the age of 65. With increases in life expectancy, fewer young
workers are available to help pay for the services older citizens expect,
and stresses on economic systems will occur. According to the Congres-
sional Budget Office, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid currently
account for 7.5 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, but this
figure may reach 16.4 percent in 2040 (Lee and Haaga, 2002).2 Addi-
tionally, the aging population makes greater demands on the health care
system, heightens labor force tensions, and increases political instability
(Central Intelligence Agency, 2001). The engineering profession of 2020
will have to operate in this environment, which may include “senior”
engineers who are willing, able, and perhaps compelled to work by eco-
nomic necessity.
The Youth Bulge and Security Implications
In contrast to the aging trend, nations in many politically unstable
parts of the world will experience a “youth bulge,” a disproportionate
number of 15- to 29-year-olds in the general population; globally, more
than 50 percent of the world’s population could be less than 18 years
old in 2020. The youth bulge is expected to be most prominent in Sub-
Saharan Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mexico, and countries of the
Middle East—all developing nations. Countries that have in the recent
past experienced youth bulge conditions include Iran, Northern Ireland,
Gaza, and Sri Lanka—all regions of recent social and political tensions
exacerbated by an excess of idle youths unable to find employment. As a
consequence, the world could face continuing social and political unrest
and threats from terrorism and fundamentalism, creating an increased
need for military services and security measures at home and abroad.
Many hold out the hope that migration from the youth bulge countries
to the rapidly aging countries will mitigate the projected problems related
to aging and the youth bulge. In the face of heightened concerns about
terrorism, however, the United States would probably permit this immi-
gration only as a very carefully metered trickle. This could seriously
depress the supply of foreign engineers and increase the need for engi-
neering schools to recruit, nurture, and retain domestic students.
2It must be noted that the long-range estimate is highly sensitive to health costs, actual
population trends, and actual economic productivity.
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
The Accelerating Global Economy
The world’s economy has become tightly linked, with much of the
change triggered by technology itself. Three hundred years ago the
advent of ships with navigation tools and reliable clocks allowed nations
to engage in commerce that was previously unthinkable. Later, commu-
nication technologies like the telegraph opened new horizons to multi-
national trade. Yet it has been the latest evolution, keyed by the maturation
of the Internet and a global advanced telecommunications network of
satellites and optical fibers, that is creating a new order, where services
and information can be provided on one side of the globe and delivered
instantly to meet demands on the other side. The dramatic possibilities
offered by this development are being fueled by rapidly improving edu-
cational capabilities in countries like China and India and the availabil-
ity of highly skilled workers with engineering and science backgrounds
in these and other countries, willing and able to work for wages well
below those in the developed nations. It is estimated that today China is
producing more than twice the graduates in mechanical engineering
and more than three times the graduates in all fields of engineering than
is the United States (Ehler, 2003).
In this new global economy, high-end services like electronic design,
applied research, accounting, aerospace design, technical consulting, and
x-ray assessment can be done more economically outside the developed
world and the results transmitted electronically back to the developed
countries. Thus, new semiconductors can be readily designed in China
and India and used to manufacture chips anywhere in the world.
Many advanced engineering designs are accomplished using virtual
global teams—highly integrated engineering teams comprised of
researchers located around the world. These teams often function across
multiple time zones, multiple cultures, and sometimes multiple
languages. They also can operate asynchronously. Analogously, Internet-
based enterprises allow businesses to grow based on a virtual customer
base for advertising and commerce that expands the globe. The cus-
tomer can shop anytime and anywhere. Hence, information sharing has
the effect of tying cultures, knowledge, and economies, with both
possible positive and negative impacts on U.S.-based engineers. These
impacts will become more ubiquitous as Internet connectivity expands
in underdeveloped areas of the globe (see Figure 4).
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
America, 32%
Americas, 6%
Europe, 6%
Asia-Pacific, 24%
Europe, 28%
FIGURE 4 Demographics for Internet usage in 2005. SOURCE: Adapted from Cen-
tral Intelligence Agency (2001).
The Systems Perspective
In the past, steady increases in knowledge have spawned new
microdisciplines within engineering (e.g., microelectronics, photonics,
biomechanics). However, contemporary challenges—from biomedical
devices to complex manufacturing designs to large systems of networked
devices—increasingly require a systems perspective. Systems engineering
is based on the principle that structured methodologies can be used to
integrate components and technologies. The systems perspective is one
that looks to achieve synergy and harmony among diverse components
of a larger theme. Hence, there is a need for greater breadth so that
broader requirements can be addressed. Many believe this necessitates
new ways of doing engineering.
Working in Teams
Because of the increasing complexity and scale of systems-based
engineering problems, there is a growing need to pursue collaborations
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
with multidisciplinary teams of experts across multiple fields. Essential
attributes for these teams include excellence in communication (with
technical and public audiences), an ability to communicate using tech-
nology, and an understanding of the complexities associated with a
global market and social context. Flexibility, receptiveness to change,
and mutual respect are essential as well. For example, it already is found
that engineers may come together in teams based on individual areas of
expertise and disperse once a challenge has been addressed, only to
regroup again differently to respond to a new challenge.
Only recently have strategies for ensuring effectiveness in inter-
disciplinary engineering teams been discussed among engineering
educators (Fruchter, 2002; Smith, 2003). Much of our existing knowl-
edge about teams and how they can best be assembled and managed has
been developed through other disciplines (e.g., business, psychology,
other social sciences). However, a number of researchers have recog-
nized a need to tailor and adapt this existing knowledge to support
engineering teams and organizations (Bordogna, 1997; Shuman et al.,
2002; Smerdon, 2003). For engineering this topic, including the
challenge of working effectively with multicultural teams, will continue
to grow in importance as systems engineering becomes more pervasive.
Engineers must know how and when to incorporate social elements
into a comprehensive systems analysis of their work. This changing land-
scape for engineering can be illustrated in a complexity model developed
by the committee that indicates that it is not just the nature of a narrow
technical challenge but the legal, market, political, etc., landscape and
constraints that will characterize the way the challenge is addressed. The
model helps categorize how and why engineers approach problems and
illustrates the types of challenges engineering will address. A two-
dimensional matrix considering “old versus new” methodologies used
to tackle “old versus new” challenges defines four different approaches
(see Figure 5). The matrix also illustrates the way these problem-solving
approaches are influenced by cost sensitivity and confidence in the
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Cost Sensitivity
New Ways/Old Problems
New Ways/New Problems
• Design for recycling
• Simulation/modeling complex
• Retrofits/redesigns
• Liability surrounding the digital
• Pulls from a diverse set of tools &
Solution Confidence
• Collaboration—this is where the
• More application reuse
amount/scale of required
• Required regression suites
information is so deep
• Cost-benefit analysis
• Have to consider/scan prior art but
• Justification/litigation exposure
look at it in a “new light”
• National defense (terrorism, etc.)
• Radically innovative applications of
• Existing standards do not support
new technology, new literature, or
desired application
no established/formal standards
• Maximum exposure since solution • Keen eye on differentiation and
has to overcome perceived/real
intellectual capital protection
expectations. Tolerance for failure
(patent or trade secret)
• Prerequisite technologies do not
• Driven by “it has to be better”
exist (measurement, etc.)
• Driven by “desire to
• Tacit knowledge retention issues
• Formal, in-depth analysis
• Host of accepted standards and
• Broader application of processes
background information
• Functional team-based
• Aging systems/support
• Object reuse
• Standard development process
• Maintenance of existing
(research → requirements →
infrastructure (including nuclear
design → development → test)
industry, weapons, computer
• Particularly challenging due to
systems, aging support staff)
breadth of knowledge space
• Driven by “If it ain’t broke . . . ”
• Driven by “Been there, done that”
Old Ways/Old Problems
Old Ways/New Problems
FIGURE 5 Complexity model.
The explosion in knowledge sharing, coupled with advances in tech-
nology, will provide the ability to achieve a new era in customerization—
a buyer-centric business strategy that combines mass customization with
customized marketing (Wind and Rangaswamy, 2000). This will
demand the social interaction of engineers with customers, even more
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
so than today, belying the image of the engineer as the techie nerd and
demanding that engineers have well-developed people skills. The situation
will be the antithesis of the time in 1914 when Henry Ford stated that
“every American could have a Ford in any color, so long as it is black.”
The limitations that once constrained our ability to achieve controlled
variability in a mass production environment will no longer exist.
New tools in manufacturing and production, new knowledge about
the products being produced and the customers that use them, and the
ease with which information and products can be transferred will enable
the creation of products and services that are uniquely designed for the
user. Manufacturers will have the ability to embed adaptive features into
automated processes, including the capacity to respond to real-time
information provided by the user and/or other entities. Consumers will
demand products that are tailored to their needs and intended uses based
on the most unique attributes (e.g., DNA type, physical attributes,
specific use environment, or customer preference). The concept of
made-to-order products will continue to expand (Tersine and Harvey,
1998), and for many industries a made-to-order ability may become a
necessity for survival in the near term. Engineers will be asked to accel-
erate and expand customerization as businesses compete to build and
maintain a strong customer base, wherever those customers may be.
If this is the world that emerges, present concerns about outsourcing
of low-wage, mass-production manufacturing jobs may be misplaced.
Instead, the concern should be about creating a workforce and busi-
ness environment that prospers in a mass-production-less economy.
Engineers will be central to such a workforce, but what will they need to
know and do?
Public Policy
In many ways the roles that engineers take on have always extended
beyond the realm of knowledge and technology. In fact, engineering
impacts the health and vitality of a nation as no other profession does.
The business competitiveness, military strength, health, and standard of
living of a nation are intimately connected to engineering. And as tech-
nology becomes increasingly engrained into every facet of our lives, the
convergence between engineering and public policy will also increase.
This new level of intimacy necessitates that engineering (and engineers)
develop a stronger sense of how technology and public policy interact.
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
For example, engineers will need to understand the policy by-products
of new technologies, and public servants will need to recognize the
engineering implications of policy decisions. Whether the issues involve
the environment, energy, health care, education, or national defense,
engineering will be integral to developing and maintaining the desired
infrastructure in support of policy decisions. Similarly, the introduction
of new technologies and products will change the landscape in which
those infrastructures exist.
Today, engineers indirectly pursue connections to public policy
through lobbying organizations and their own professional societies and
think tanks. These groups typically seek to inform and influence
legislation. Engineers also participate in community-based organiza-
tions—for example nongovernmental organizations that help support
the development of underdeveloped and economically disadvantaged
communities and nations. However, engagement of engineers in public
policy issues has been haphazard at best. It is both the responsibility of
engineers and important to the image of the profession that engineers
make a better connection in the future.
Public Understanding of Engineering
The American public is generally quite eager to adopt new technol-
ogy but, ironically, is woefully technology illiterate and unprepared to
participate in discussions of the potential dangers of new technologies
or discussions of the value of the national investment in research and
development. As new technologies continue to emerge at a breakneck
pace, this situation can only worsen, absent intervention. As educa-
tional institutions, engineering schools should reach out to the
semicaptive audience they have of nonengineering majors by offering
an exciting course (or courses) that introduces technological concepts of
real-world value. Encouraging greater understanding of the value of
engineering and the contributions it makes to society can help attract
undecided students to engineering as well.
Building on Past Successes and Failures
As we contemplate the engineer of 2020, it is important to capture
lessons learned from the rich history of engineering innovation in
society. Loren Graham documents a series of engineering failures in the
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Soviet Union based on a recurring tendency to neglect labor issues and
repeated inattention to the importance of a process to achieve desired
safety objectives (Graham, 1993). Recent events associated with the U.S.
space program and the power grid have also highlighted the importance
of safety protocols and the need to consistently implement those proto-
cols. It is often seen that errors made today are not much different from
those that led to failures in times past. Our vulnerability to repeat the
mistakes of the past can be reduced, and our opportunities to emulate
elegant successes can be improved, through a strategy of reviewing case
An Aging Population
The engineer of 2020 will operate in a world with a larger fraction
of older citizens, but they will enjoy better health, will remain capable
of productive work, and may be compelled to work to decrease the
economic demands on the social safety net. The engineering workforce
will be swelled by those working past age 65, and this shift in demo-
graphics may seriously depress new job opportunities and therefore
decrease enrollment at many engineering schools to subcritical levels.
Professorial staff cutbacks could exacerbate the difficulty of delivering
the breadth of technology demanded for a well-educated engineer in
2020. To retain staff members and keep them fully engaged, engineer-
ing schools may have to create new engineering degree programs to
attract a new pool of students interested in a less rigorous engineering
program as a “liberal” education. While this will not produce more
ready-to-practice engineers (who, in this scenario, would face a bleak
job market anyway), it will produce more technologically literate stu-
dents who hopefully will understand the principles of the inquiry-based
scientific method and engineering under constraint and be able to apply
them to the profession they choose to pursue and as citizens of a tech-
nological society (National Academy of Engineering, 2001).
The Global Economy
The productivity of local engineering groups can be markedly
enhanced by globally dispersed “round-the-clock” engineering teams.
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Conversely, the disparity in wages may make outsourcing of engineer-
ing jobs the dominant feature of global connectivity. Other nations may
learn from the lessons of China and India that educating their young
people as engineers provides a ready pool of talent to be employed at
home in engineering jobs outsourced from the high-wage-cost devel-
oped countries. In the United States this may have a chilling effect on
domestic job opportunities. Alternatively, in the long run it may increase
the buying power of the developing world and vastly increase the total
market for U.S. goods and services.
If the demand for U.S. engineers drops, even if only temporarily
while the world adjusts to a new economic order, will it be necessary for
the traditional engineering schools to develop a two-tiered engineering
education system? If routine engineering jobs are mostly outsourced,
will we educate large numbers of lower-cost engineering “technicians”
to do such jobs? Will U.S. companies be willing to trade off the lower
cost of offshore engineers for moderate cost and more local control for
engineers at home? Will “full-service” engineers require a five- or six-
year “certification” or “professional” degree and act as engineering
managers to coordinate the activities of overseas job shops and sub-
sidiaries? What would be the role of ABET (formerly the Accreditation
Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc.) in accommodating
transition to a professional degree?
If, on the other hand, the demand for engineers ultimately increases
because of an expanding market, how do we position U.S. engineers to
be prepared? Do our engineers understand enough culturally, for
example, to respond to the needs of the multiple niches in a global
market? Can we continue to expect everyone else to speak English? What
will be our special value added?
The Five- or Six-Year Professional Degree
Almost all discussion of educating the engineer of 2020 presumes
additions to the curriculum—more on communications, more of the
social sciences, more on business and economics, more cross-cultural
studies, more on nano-, bio-, and information technologies, more on
the fundamentals behind these increasingly central technologies, and so
forth. Unfortunately, the typical undergraduate engineering program
already requires around 10 percent more coursework than other degree
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
programs, and a typical engineering student needs 4.8 years to com-
plete it. Simply adding these new elements to the curriculum is not an
The options would seem to be: (a) cutting out some of the current
requirements, (b) restructuring current courses to teach them much
more efficiently, or (c) increasing the time spent in school to become an
engineering professional. All three may need to be done to some extent,
but it is worth noting that all professions except engineering—business,
law, medicine—presume that the bachelor’s degree is not the first pro-
fessional degree. They presume the first professional degree is preceded
by a nonspecialist liberal arts degree, so it is also not clear that just
adding two years or so to a traditional engineering B.S. degree will raise
engineers to the professional status of managers, lawyers, and doctors.
Nonetheless, while it cannot be mandated instantly and could require
radical restructuring of the present approach to engineering education,
by 2020 engineering could well follow the course of the other profes-
sions. Doing so may be part of the competitive edge of U.S. engineers.
Immigration and the Next Generation of U.S. Engineering Students
In the face of ongoing concerns about terrorism, the United States
may permit immigration at only a very carefully metered trickle. This
could seriously depress the supply of foreign students and engineers
and, in a scenario the opposite of those above, increase the need for
engineering schools to recruit, nurture, and retain domestic students.
Under the best of circumstances, most engineering schools do not
“nurture and retain” particularly well, and the need to do so could be a
serious challenge in an “insular” United States.
Decreases in immigration could also severely deplete the pool of
foreign graduate students on which the U.S. research “engine” depends
so heavily to conduct research in academic settings and to serve as
teaching assistants. In the face of the opportunity costs associated with
continued schooling, U.S. students exhibit considerable reluctance to
pursue the Ph.D. The engineering education establishment will need to
address the preparation and inducement, perhaps through more
generous compensation for teaching and research assistantships, of U.S.
students to pursue advanced degrees to keep the engine running.
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Building on Past Successes and Failures
Integrating case histories in engineering education would promote
a positive professional identity and sense of tradition—things that engi-
neers are often lacking relative to medical doctors, lawyers, and even
scientists. Case histories would also point out a variety of ways that
social systems (e.g., government, labor unions, cultural norms, or reli-
gious world view) or technical infrastructures (e.g., rail and highway
systems, telecommunications facilities, or energy limitations) can com-
promise the success of a seemingly appropriate technical approach.
Studying the successes of innovative engineers could help students
understand the roots of imagination and innovation.
Education Research
Retention of entering freshmen to completion of their engineering
degrees could increase the number of engineers graduating in a given
year by as much as 40 percent. Curricular adjustments that engage
students in the creativity of engineering early in their engineering edu-
cation and application of new pedagogical knowledge about the way
different people learn have been shown to markedly enhance retention.
The engineering education establishment should embrace research in
engineering education as a valued activity for engineering faculty as a
means to enhance and personalize the connection to undergraduate stu-
dents. Faculty must understand the variability in how students learn, so
they can adapt teaching styles to the learning style most effective for
individual students, and prepare students for a lifetime of learning. The
National Research Council (2001) report How People Learn and the
Carnegie Foundation’s Preparation for the Professions Program emphasize
the need to understand how learning occurs for a particular discipline
(Carnegie, 2004). The Carnegie program has sponsored intensive studies
on education for the professions of law, engineering, and clergy. Both
initiatives stress the need for curriculum developers, cognitive scientists,
educational materials developers, and teachers to work with practicing
professionals as they create robust strategies for teaching and learning in
the various professional disciplines.
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Teamwork, Communication, and Public Policy
The engineering profession recognizes that engineers need to work
in teams, communicate with multiple audiences, and immerse them-
selves in public policy debates and will need to do so more effectively in
the future. In the face of pressure, especially from state funding agen-
cies, to cut costs by reducing credit hours for the four-year degree, it
remains an open question whether engineering education can step up to
the challenge of providing a broader education to engineering graduates.
Engineering is problem recognition, formulation, and solution. In
the next 20 years, engineers and engineering students will be required to
use new tools and apply ever-increasing knowledge in expanding engi-
neering disciplines, all while considering societal repercussions and
constraints within a complex landscape of old and new ideas. They will
be working with diverse teams of engineers and nonengineers to formu-
late solutions to yet unknown problems. They will increasingly need to
address large-scale systems problems. And they and the engineering edu-
cation infrastructure will likely need to contend with changes in the
nature and scale of the engineering workforce. The nation may be forced
to make some hard decisions about the national security and inter-
national competitiveness implications of excluding immigrant engineers
and/or of exporting large numbers of engineering jobs offshore.
Providing engineers of 2020 with exposure to the history of their
profession will give them the basis for honing their judgment and critical
thinking skills and enhance their professional self-awareness. Successful
engineering is defensive engineering, in which solution analysis is pro-
active and anticipatory. Engineers must consider past lessons and
continue to ask questions of other engineers and nonengineering
professionals as knowledge expands exponentially. Engineers will be ex-
pected to comprehend all that has been established before them and yet
adapt to the changes, diversities, and complexities they will encounter.
Engineers will be called on to solve ever more difficult problems by
forming revolutionary technologies or by applying existing solutions in
unique ways.
Engineering will increasingly be applied in ways that achieve synergy
between technical and social systems. For example, engineering will help
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
to establish sustainable transportation systems, efficient methods for en-
ergy and power delivery, comprehensive telecommunications networks,
and cost-effective methods for delivering adequate food and safe drink-
ing water. As these systems are developed and implemented, extensive
coordination activities between cities, regions, and nations may be
required. Technical systems will leverage all available resources, including
human and social infrastructures, to achieve the desired outcomes and
to better ensure sustainability. Thus, the engineers of 2020 will be
actively involved in political and community arenas. They will under-
stand workforce constraints, and they will recognize the education and
training requirements necessary for dealing with customers and the
broader public. Engineering will need to expand its reach and thought
patterns and political influence if it is to fulfill its potential to help
create a better world for our children and grandchildren.
Bordogna, J. 1997. Making Connections: The Role of Engineers and Engineering Educa-
tion. The Bridge 27(1):11-16. Available online at:
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. 2004. Preparation for the Professions
Program Description. Available online at:
Central Intelligence Agency. 2001. Long-Term Global Demographic Trends: Reshaping the
Geopolitical Landscape. Available online at:
Ehler, V.J. 2003. Presentation at U.S. Congress National Outreach Day, Washington, D.C.,
September 9.
Fruchter, R. 2002. Interdisciplinary Communications Medium. Available online at: http://
Graham, L.R. 1993. The Ghost of the Executed Engineer: Technology and the Fall of the
Soviet Union. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Lee, R., and J. Haaga. 2002. Government Spending in an Older America. Population Reference
Bureau Reports on America, 3(1). Available online at:
National Academy of Engineering. 2001. Why All Americans Need to Know More About
Technology. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
National Research Council. 2001. How People Learn. Washington, D.C.: National Academy
Shuman, L., C. Atman, E. Eschenbach, D. Evans, R.M. Felder, P.K. Imbrie, J. McGourty,
R.L. Miller, L.G. Richards, K.A. Smith, E.P. Soulsby, A.A. Waller, and C.F. Yokomoto.
2002. The Future of Engineering Education. 32nd ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education
Conference, Boston, Mass., November 6-9.
Smerdon, E. 2003. Global Challenges for U.S. Engineering Education. 6th WFEO World
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Congress on Engineering Education, Nashville, Tenn., June 20-23.
Smith, K.A. 2003. Teamwork and Project Management, 2nd Edition. New York: McGraw-
Tersine, R., and M. Harvey. 1998. Global Customerization of Markets Has Arrived. Euro-
pean Management Journal 16(1):45-57. Available online at:
U.S. Census Bureau. 2002. U.S. Census Bureau National Population Projections. Available
online at:
United Nations. 2002. World Urbanization Prospects: The 2001 Revision Data Tables and
Highlights. United Nations Department of Economics and Social Affairs, Population
Division, New York.
Wind, J., and A. Rangaswamy. 2000. Customerization: The Next Revolution in Mass
Customization. eBusiness Research Center, Pennsylvania State University, University
Park. Available online at:
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Aspirations for the Engineer of 2020
Throughout the ages humankind has sought to divine the future,
in the past by consulting the Delphic oracle, today by creating massive
computer models. However, life has a habit of reminding us that our
predictions are rarely accurate. Despite the fickle nature of events over
time, two constants persist. One is that we continue to prepare our-
selves for an uncertain future as we always have, and the second is a
steady growth of the influence of technology in our lives.
Engineering, through its role in the creation and implementation
of technology, has been a key force in the improvement of our eco-
nomic well-being, health, and quality of life. Three hundred years ago
the average life span was 37 years, the primary effort of the majority of
humans was focused on provisioning their tables, and the threat of
sudden demise due to disease was a lurking reality (Kagan et al., 2001).
Today, human life expectancy is approaching 80 years in many parts of
the world as fundamental advances in medicine and technology have
greatly suppressed the occurrence of and mortality rates for previously
fatal diseases and the efforts of humankind are focused largely on
enhanced quality of life (Central Intelligence Agency, 2001). Only 150
years ago travel from the East Coast of the United States to the West
Coast entailed a hazardous journey that took months to accomplish.
Weeks were needed to transmit a letter from one coast to the other.
Today, in the developed world, we take it for granted that transporta-
tion is affordable and reliable, good health care is accessible, information
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
and entertainment are provided on call, and safe water and healthy food
are readily available.
To be sure, there have also been negative results of technology.
Pollution, global warming, depletion of scarce resources, and cata-
strophic failures of poorly designed engineering systems are examples.
Overall, however, engineers and their inventions and innovations have
helped shape the changes that have made our lives more productive and
With the prospect of the exciting new developments expected to
come from such fields as biotechnology, nanotechnology, and high-
performance computing, the year 2020 can be a time of new choices
and opportunities. The years between the present and 2020 offer engi-
neering the opportunity to strengthen its leadership role in society and
to define an engineering career as one of the most influential and valu-
able in society and one that is attractive for the best and the brightest. If
we are to take full advantage of this opportunity, it is important to
engage all segments of the population in a vigorous discussion of the
roles of engineers and engineering and to establish high aspirations for
engineers that reflect a shared vision of the future.
Our Image and the Profession
Without engineers working both in technical endeavors and as leaders
who serve in industry, government, education, and nonprofit organiza-
tions, progress would stagnate. Engineering offers men and women an
unparalleled opportunity to experience the joy of improving the quality
of life for humankind through development of engineering solutions to
societal problems. Many engineers pursue career paths in fields that are
traditionally defined as engineering. However, a significant number use
their engineering backgrounds as points of departure into other fields
such as law, medicine, and business. The opportunities offered by an
engineering education are multifold, and this is not fully realized by
young people, their parents, counselors, mentors, and the public at large.
By 2020, we aspire to a public that will understand and appreciate
the profound impact of the engineering profession on sociocultural
systems, the full spectrum of career opportunities accessible through
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
an engineering education, and the value of an engineering educa-
tion to engineers working successfully in nonengineering jobs.
While engineering is a rapidly evolving field that adapts to new
knowledge, new technology, and the needs of society, it also draws on
distinct roots that go back to the origins of civilization. Maintaining a
linkage of the past with the future is fundamental to the rational and
fact-based approaches that engineers use in identifying and confronting
the most difficult issues.
We aspire to a public that will recognize the union of professional-
ism, technical knowledge, social and historical awareness, and tradi-
tions that serve to make engineers competent to address the world’s
complex and changing challenges.
Engineering must be grounded in the fundamental principles of
science and mathematics. This foundation supports the development of
new knowledge and the creation of safe, reliable, and innovative tech-
nologies that advance society and the human condition. Solutions of
societal problems require that these technologies be applied in innovative
ways with consideration of cultural differences, historical perspectives,
and legal and economic constraints, among other issues.
We aspire to engineers in 2020 who will remain well grounded in
the basics of mathematics and science, and who will expand their
vision of design through a solid grounding in the humanities, social
sciences, and economics. Emphasis on the creative process will allow
more effective leadership in the development and application of
next-generation technologies to problems of the future.
Engineering Without Boundaries
Engineering has shown itself to be responsive to technological
breakthroughs from within engineering and from other fields, although
not always in the most timely fashion. From its first two subbranches,
military and civil, it expanded early on in recognition of developments
that led to mining, mechanical, chemical, electrical, and industrial engi-
neering. This process has continued and is evidenced recently by the
introduction of biomedical and computer engineering.
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
We aspire to an engineering profession 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 nonengineering disciplines such as science, social
science, and business.
With technology becoming ever more pervasive in society, it is
incumbent on the engineering profession to lead in shaping the ultimate
use of technology and the government processes that control, regulate,
or encourage its use.
By 2020 we aspire to engineers who will assume leadership posi-
tions from which they can serve as positive influences in the mak-
ing of public policy and in the administration of government and
The success of engineering is based on a deep reservoir of talented
people. In the United States this wellspring has been nourished princi-
pally by drawing from a white male population.
We aspire to an engineering profession that will effectively recruit,
nurture, and welcome underrepresented groups to its ranks.
Engineering a Sustainable Society and World
The world faces significant environmental challenges in the future.
At the same time there is great opportunity for engineering to serve as a
force to help society solve the problems associated with these challenges.
This requires a holistic understanding of economic growth and develop-
ment in terms of the principles of sustainability. The present generation
has the obligation to leave a legacy to those who follow so they can have
the opportunity to appreciate the unrestrained beauty of nature, the full
diversity of the world’s flora and fauna, and ancient and modern cultures
and their artifacts.
It is our aspiration that engineers will continue to be leaders in the
movement toward use of wise, informed, and economical sustainable
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
development. This should begin in our educational institutions and
be founded in the basic tenets of the engineering profession and its
Advances in communications, travel, and economics have created a
world where no country is untouched by any other. In the United States
the oceans that bound our coasts no longer insulate us from other
nations. In this dynamic global economy and political environment,
engineering must adjust to a new world view.
We aspire to a future where engineers are prepared to adapt to
changes in global forces and trends and to ethically assist the world
in creating a balance in the standard of living for developing and
developed countries alike.
Education of the Engineer of 2020
Engineering education and its nature have been debated for many
years. Change typically comes in waves, often following from forces
outside the education establishment. Fallout from the surprising success
of the launch of the Russian satellite Sputnik led to reinforcement of the
“engineering science” paradigm. The impacts of the recession of the
early 1980s and subsequent reconstitution of the competitiveness of
American industry and the dramatic failure of the space shuttle
Challenger in the mid-1980s aided the movement toward more attention
to quality principles and communication and teamwork skills. Presently,
it is important that engineering education be reconsidered in a futures-
based approach driven from within engineering.
It is our aspiration that engineering educators and practicing
engineers together undertake a proactive effort to prepare engineer-
ing education to address the technology and societal challenges and
opportunities of the future. With appropriate thought and consid-
eration, and using new strategic planning tools, we should reconsti-
tute engineering curricula and related educational programs to pre-
pare today’s engineers for the careers of the future, with due
recognition of the rapid pace of change in the world and its intrin-
sic lack of predictability.
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
It is appropriate that engineers are educated to understand and
appreciate history, philosophy, culture, and the arts, along with the
creative elements of all of these disciplines. The balanced inclusion of
these important aspects in an engineering education leads to men and
women who can bridge the “two cultures” cited by the author C.P. Snow
(1998). In our increasingly technological society, this is more important
now than in the 1950s when Snow identified the issue. The case can be
made that an appropriately designed engineering curriculum today of-
fers an education that is more well rounded than that obtained by stu-
dents majoring in classical liberal arts, where technology is conspicu-
ously absent from the field of study.
Our aspiration is to shape the engineering curriculum for 2020 so
as to be responsive to the disparate learning styles of different
student populations and attractive for all those seeking a full and
well-rounded education that prepares a person for a creative and
productive life and positions of leadership.
Central Intelligence Agency. 2001. Long-Term Global Demographic Trends: Reshaping the
Geopolitical Landscape. Available online at:
Kagan, D., S. Ozment, and F.M. Turner. 2001. The Western Heritage, 7th Edition.
Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall.
Snow, C.P. 1998. The Two Cultures. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Attributes of Engineers in 2020
We complete our discussion of the engineer of 2020 by reviewing
the key attributes that will support the success and relevance of the
engineering profession in 2020 and beyond. Our discussion is framed
by certain guiding principles that will shape engineering activities, as
• The pace of technological innovation will continue to be rapid
(most likely accelerating).
• The world in which technology will be deployed will be intensely
globally interconnected.
• The population of individuals who are involved with or affected
by technology (e.g., designers, manufacturers, distributors, users)
will be increasingly diverse and multidisciplinary.
• Social, cultural, political, and economic forces will continue to
shape and affect the success of technological innovation.
• The presence of technology in our everyday lives will be seam-
less, transparent, and more significant than ever.
Many of the key attributes of engineers in 2020 will be similar to
those of today but made more complex by the impact of new tech-
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
nology. In reviewing these enduring attributes for engineers, we also
identify the essential characteristics that connect engineering’s past,
present, and future. As with any profession, we also recognize the
imperative to remain flexible and to embrace necessary changes that
allow for constant success. These new-century reflections on engineers
in 2020 are outlined below.
The word engineer has its roots in the Latin word ingeniator,
which means ingenious, to devise in the sense of construct, or
craftsmanship. Several other words are related to ingeniator,
including ingenuity.
Engineers in 2020, like engineers of yesterday and today, will possess
strong analytical skills. At its core, engineering employs principles of
science, mathematics, and domains of discovery and design to a par-
ticular challenge and for a practical purpose. This will not change as we
move forward. It has been stated in earlier sections that the core
knowledge base on which engineers develop products and services may
shift as technologies involving the life sciences, nanoscience, optical
science, materials science, and complex systems become more prevalent.
Also, information and communications technologies will be ubiqui-
tous—embedded into virtually every structure and process and vital to
the success and usefulness of all engineered products. Just as important
will be the imperative to expand the engineering design space such that
the impacts of social systems and their associated constraints are afforded
as much attention as economic, legal, and political constraints (e.g.,
resource management, standards, accountability requirements). Engi-
neers will also concentrate on systemic outcomes in the same ways that
focused outcomes are considered. Even though the scientific knowledge
that defines operating principles is expected to be more fluid and more
complex, the core analysis activities of engineering design—establishing
structure, planning, evaluating performance, and aligning outcomes to
a desired objective—will continue.
Engineers in 2020 will exhibit practical ingenuity. The word
engineering derives from ingeniator (Johnston et al., 2000). Yesterday,
today, and forever, engineering will be synonymous with ingenuity—
skill in planning, combining, and adapting. Using science and practical
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
ingenuity, engineers identify problems and find solutions. This will con-
tinue to be a mainstay of engineering. But as technology continues to
increase in complexity and the world becomes ever more dependent on
technology, the magnitude, scope, and impact of the challenges society
will face in the future are likely to change. For example, issues related to
climate change, the environment, and the intersections between tech-
nology and social/public policies are becoming increasingly important.
By 2020 the need for practical solutions will be at or near critical stage,
and engineers, and their ingenuity, will become ever more important.
Creativity (invention, innovation, thinking outside the box, art) is
an indispensable quality for engineering, and given the growing scope
of the challenges ahead and the complexity and diversity of the
technologies of the 21st century, creativity will grow in importance.
The creativity requisite for engineering will change only in the sense
that the problems to be solved may require synthesis of a broader range
of interdisciplinary knowledge and a greater focus on systemic constructs
and outcomes.
As always, good engineering will require good communication.
Engineering has always engaged multiple stakeholders—government,
private industry, and the public. In the new century the parties that
engineering ties together will increasingly involve interdisciplinary
teams, globally diverse team members, public officials, and a global
customer base. We envision a world where communication is enabled
by an ability to listen effectively as well as to communicate through oral,
visual, and written mechanisms. Modern advances in technology will
necessitate the effective use of virtual communication tools. The
increasing imperative for accountability will necessitate an ability to
communicate convincingly and to shape the opinions and attitudes of
other engineers and the public.
In the past those engineers who mastered the principles of business
and management were rewarded with leadership roles. This will be no
different in the future. However, with the growing interdependence
between technology and the economic and social foundations of modern
society, there will be an increasing number of opportunities for engineers
to exercise their potential as leaders, not only in business but also in the
nonprofit and government sectors. Policy decisions in technological
societies will demand the attention of leaders who understand the
strengths and limitations of science and technology. New levels of
sophistication will be needed as choices that affect physical, human,
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
and political infrastructures and decisions that define priorities and
objectives for a community, region, or nation are made.
In preparation for this opportunity, engineers must understand the
principles of leadership and be able to practice them in growing
proportions as their careers advance. They must also be willing to
acknowledge the significance and importance of public service and its
place in society, stretching their traditional comfort zone and accepting
the challenge of bridging public policy and technology well beyond the
roles accepted in the past.
Complementary to the necessity for strong leadership ability is the
need to also possess a working framework upon which high ethical
standards and a strong sense of professionalism can be developed.
These are supported by boldness and courage. Many of the challenges
of the new century are complex and interdependent and have signifi-
cant implications for the technologies intended to address them and the
ways in which those technologies affect the planet and the people that
live here. Effective and wise management of technological resources is
integral to engineering work. The choices will be gray in nature, balanc-
ing (for example) economic, social, environmental, and military factors.
Leaders, and those who influence these choices, will benefit from a sense
of purpose and clarity. Successful engineers in 2020 will, as they always
have, recognize the broader contexts that are intertwined in technology
and its application in society.
Given the uncertain and changing character of the world in which
2020 engineers will work, engineers will need something that cannot be
described in a single word. It involves dynamism, agility, resilience,
and flexibility. Not only will technology change quickly, the social-
political-economic world in which engineers work will change continu-
ously. In this context it will not be this or that particular knowledge that
engineers will need but rather the ability to learn new things quickly
and the ability to apply knowledge to new problems and new contexts.
Encompassed in this theme is the imperative for engineers to be
lifelong learners. They will need this not only because technology will
change quickly but also because the career trajectories of engineers will
take on many more directions—directions that include different parts
of the world and different types of challenges and that engage different
types of people and objectives. Hence, to be individually/personally
successful, the engineer of 2020 will learn continuously throughout his
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
or her career, not just about engineering but also about history, politics,
business, and so forth.
What attributes will the engineer of 2020 have? He or she will aspire
to have the ingenuity of Lillian Gilbreth, the problem-solving capabilities
of Gordon Moore, the scientific insight of Albert Einstein, the creativity
of Pablo Picasso, the determination of the Wright brothers, the leader-
ship abilities of Bill Gates, the conscience of Eleanor Roosevelt, the
vision of Martin Luther King, and the curiosity and wonder of our
Lillian Gilbreth is known as the Mother of Ergonomics,
a branch of engineering devoted to fitting the workplace to the
worker. Ergonomics involves the application of knowledge
about human capacities and limitations to the design of
workplaces, jobs, tasks, tools, equipment, and the environment.
Gilbreth’s approach transformed the engineering activity by
introducing a primary focus on human needs and capacities.
She was recognized for her contributions by being the first
woman elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1966.
Johnston, S., Gostelow, J.P., and W.J. King. 2000. Engineering and Society. New York:
Prentice Hall.
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
The engineer of 2020 and beyond will face a bewildering array of
new technologies, appearing at a rate that will bring his or her profes-
sional qualifications constantly near obsolescence. The engineering
community will face a world which is more connected than today,
requiring both social and political acumen to navigate the changing
world conditions. The particular factors that will dominate engineering
practice and require reform of engineering education are not predict-
able, although an array of possible factors is already evident. This report
lays out those factors the committee deemed most plausible to have an
impact and thus creates a framework of issues that it believes must be
considered in a discussion of the action steps for engineering education.
That discussion is the subject of Phase II of this project.
A vision of the future engineer is provided by the aspirations and
attributes listed in Chapters 3 and 4. These aspirations describe engi-
neers who are broadly educated, see themselves as global citizens, can
lead in business and public service, as well as in research, development
and design, are ethical and inclusive of all segments of society. The attributes
include strong analytical skills, creativity, ingenuity, professionalism, and
leadership. We believe that engineers meet these aspirations and evidence
these attributes today. The issue is how we can ensure that the engineer-
ing profession and engineering education adopt a collective vision
including these aspirations and encouraging creation of an environment
that promotes these attributes and aspirations in the future.
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Appendix A
This appendix contains the scenarios referred to in the Preface and
Executive Summary. The participants listed in Appendix B developed
them at a fall 2002 workshop.
About Scenario Thinking
Scenario planning is a highly interactive process that is intense and
imaginative. The idea of scenarios is to tell possible stories about the
future. A scenario is a tool for ordering one’s perceptions about alternative
future environments in which today’s decisions might be played out.
The initial phase usually involves rigorously challenging the mental
maps that shape one’s perceptions. A good scenario planning project
expands our peripheral vision and forces us to examine our assumptions
and to practice what we would do if the unthinkable happened—a con-
dition that occurs more often than one might imagine.
In the body of the process, groups identify driving forces (social,
economic, political, and technological) and the factors that shape those
forces. These factors are then prioritized according to importance and
Each scenario should represent a plausible alternative future, not a
best case, worst case, or most likely continuum. Most important, the
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
test of a good scenario is not whether it portrays the future accurately
but whether it provides a mechanism for learning and adapting.
In the past few years we have discovered that the universe is expand-
ing at an accelerating rate and is probably flat rather than curved. We
have found evidence of neutrinos with mass. We have completed the
first draft of the human genome and started building the fastest com-
puter to solve even more complex problems in biology. In physics, pro-
found changes in our understanding are unfolding at the very large scale
of the universe and at the very small scale inside subatomic particles.
One of the most challenging problems in physics today is the apparent
incompatibility between general relativity, which describes the nature of
the large-scale universe very well, and quantum mechanics, which is
useful at the very small scale. Like physics, chemistry is benefiting from
new computational methods and the ability to manipulate matter at the
very small scale. We can simulate chemical reactions and structures that
enable us to try many more alternatives in virtual labs than we could
ever do in the real world. Research proceeds faster and better. We have
new tools to see and manipulate individual molecules. In biology the
revolutionary dynamics are similar, with the added dimension of the
decoding of the human genome. Advances over the past few decades in
genetics and molecular biology have enormously expanded our under-
standing and control of biological systems. Once biology was mainly an
empirical science. We could only observe what is. Unlike physics, we
could not reliably predict and control the behavior of systems. Increas-
ingly biology is becoming a quantitative science like physics, with higher
levels of ability to predict and control.
We imagine that the new ideas and discoveries in physics, biology,
chemistry, and mathematics are leading to a revolutionary “moment”
where we will reconceptualize and reperceive reality. We have been here
before. One of the consequences of the revolution in physics at the
beginning of the 20th century was that reality got weird. In the 19th
century, physics made the world more comprehensible. It was assumed
that the real world was like a vast clock mechanism. If we identified all
its pieces and figured out how they worked, we would understand the
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
nature of things. It was not hard to visualize the causal cascade of events
that explained why things are as they are. Then along came relativity
and quantum theory. Suddenly space and time became malleable and
fluid rather than the fixed framework within which everything else
happened. Heisenberg showed us that, thanks to the dynamics of very
small things, it was impossible to know just where a particle was and
how fast it was moving in what direction. Uncertainty is in the nature of
things. We now have great difficulty in imagining the workings of
physical reality. After all, can anyone really imagine the big bang . . . a
unique discontinuity in the fabric of space-time that suddenly blew up
in an explosion of vast energy to create our universe?
In the West, one of the earliest models of the universe was that of
Ptolemy. It worked fairly well, except for the fact that it assumed the
earth was at the center of the universe and everything rotated around us.
As astronomy got more sophisticated, we had to invent ever more elabo-
rate mathematical models to make Ptolemy’s picture of reality work.
The astral cycles of heavenly movement became cycles within cycles
within cycles. Until finally Copernicus said it would all be much sim-
pler if the sun were at the center and we went around it. The way we
imagined the workings of the universe literally shifted and it was simple
again in both perception and mathematics.
The present moment in science has the whiff of Ptolemeic epicycles
about it. Perhaps the universe is actually incredibly complex and
incomprehensible. Or just maybe it is our models that have become
complex and incomprehensible. Perhaps the new theories will yield ways
of seeing things that are not as simpleminded as the clockwork universe
of the 19th century or as illusive as the unimaginable world of the
20th century. In our new understandings of the relationship of the
very large to the very small we may literally revisualize the universe
around us.
New Tools
Scientific advances often rely on the engineering of new tools to
open new arenas for exploration. The telescope and the microscope
changed our view of the very large and the very small. Atom smashers,
now called particle accelerators, made it possible to explore the interior
of the atom. X-ray crystallography made possible the discovery of the
double helix of the DNA molecule.
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Today new scientific tools are leading to profound insights into the
realities of nature. The Hubble telescope and other space-based as well
as terrestrial astronomical instruments have taken us almost all the way
to the edge of the universe and back to its origins in the big bang. Over
the coming decade we anticipate building several huge new telescopes
both on the ground and in space. The scanning tunneling microscope
has given us the ability to see and manipulate individual atoms. New
imaging techniques have allowed us to observe the dynamics of very fast
chemical reactions.
The most important new tool, however, has been the computer. It
has given us the ability to create remarkably faithful simulations of
phenomena like turbulent flow and complex chemical reactions. It has
allowed us to study very large numbers of examples, millions instead of
dozens. It has given us the control systems to manipulate very complex
and/or microscopic processes. Indeed, hard scientific problems continue
to help advance the frontiers of computing power. Using today’s
supercomputers already allows us to simulate many thousands of poten-
tial chemical reactions and focus on the most productive few to test on
the lab bench. IBM is currently building the world’s most powerful
computer, to be known as Blue Gene, to simulate the complex three-
dimensional geometry and dynamics of protein molecules.
The Internet, of course, was primarily a tool for accelerating scien-
tific communication. It used to be that the process of research involved
a long cycle of peer review, publishing, challenging, retesting, publish-
ing, and so on. It was a process that took months or even years. Today
an experiment is conducted in the morning, and the results can be on
the Internet by lunchtime. By midafternoon they might be validated
elsewhere in the world and confirmed by the end of the day.
Ideas can be key tools, too. An important new idea has emerged in
recent years—the mathematics of chaos. A whole new way of seeing
change in evolving systems has been rigorously described by this new
mathematical discipline. Two new principles of change emerge from
chaos theory. Small changes at the beginning of a process of evolution
can have very large effects much further downstream. Second, the out-
come of a process is dependent on the path it took to get there. Small,
almost random changes accumulate over time to make the develop-
mental path of every system in nature unique, if only slightly. On every
tree the leaves are very similar but not identical. In the universe there are
many spiral galaxies, but none duplicate our own Milky Way galaxy.
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Their uniqueness is a function of all the unique events along the way for
each system that add up to a slightly different shape and size for the leaf
and the galaxy.
A Broad, Deep Revolution
Part of what makes one imagine that a revolution is coming is that
fundamental changes are developing across many disciplines. Here the
focus is on physics, biology, and chemistry, but many others could be
covered. Furthermore, they are feeding on each other.
The powerful new tools of astronomy and astrophysics, which
include not only the Hubble and other huge ground-based telescopes
like the Keck, but also instruments that explore in other spectra like
x-ray, gamma-ray, and radio, are leading to often surprising discoveries.
Among other things we have found that the universe is expanding at an
accelerating rate rather than a constant or decelerating rate. This chal-
lenges our model of the composition of the universe. Some unknown
force is causing the acceleration. The new discoveries are forcing us to
reconsider our models of the very large-scale universe.
At the other end of the scale, new findings in particle research and
theories like superstrings are leading to revisions of our ever more subtle
model of the subatomic realm. Indeed, superstring theory has the
potential to be the idea that breaks through the dilemma of the conflict
between relativity and quantum theory. It may be the unifying theory of
everything. (For a good book on the subject, see Brian Greene’s The
Elegant Universe, Vintage Publishing, 2000.)
In the new physics there are also hints of what could become tech-
nologically possible. Certainly superconductivity at room temperature
seems plausible. New ways of transforming energy also seem plausible.
The chemistry that lies ahead will have two new distinct properties. We
are increasingly going to be able to predict the dynamics of chemical
reactions and the properties of the resulting new materials using
computational methods. It means that we will be able to design new
materials never before seen. In the current research on carbon nanotubes,
we are already seeing this process at work. Second, we will have much
greater fine grain control of molecular dynamics and structures. We are
going to be able to maneuver molecules for many purposes from testing
to molecular construction. So the new materials we invent on the com-
puter we will actually be able to make. The revolution lies in the move-
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
ment of chemistry from the realm of vast numbers of molecules colliding
at random to a chemistry that treats individual molecules as meaningful
entities. Imagine building with Legos rather than making soup.
In biology the revolution lies in being able to understand the myriad
biological processes and structures that shape our world and lives.
Among the key outcomes, of course, will be radical new medical
therapies, from being able to grow custom replacement tissue to curing
most diseases and even reversing aging.
The intersection of the new physics, chemistry, and biology is in
nanoscience and technology. The idea is to make functional devices at
the atomic and molecular scales. A variety of biological molecules and
systems provide useful models. In the new understanding of chemistry
we are learning how to align and manipulate molecules in new ways. In
the new physics we are gaining insight into the nature of the atoms
themselves. The results are amazing new devices, for example, sensors
that can detect a single molecule in a gas.
When Eric Drexler first articulated his vision of nanotechnology in
1986, most physicists derided it as implausible. Because of the irrepress-
ible movements of very small things, you could never control them or
make them stable enough to build nanoscale machines, even if nature
did. Fortunately, they were wrong. Nanoscience has moved from the
wild fringes of science to the mainstream faster than any idea in history.
The Singularity Scenario
The outcome of these revolutionary dynamics is uncertain. Perhaps
the theorists who argue that there is no new revolution are right. It is
all the details from here on or we will never figure it out, but in any case
the story is mostly over. Well, that is one scenario in which case we are
unlikely to be surprised by much in the coming decades. The world of
2020 will mostly resemble today, maybe a bit more technological
presence, but no radical departures from the current science and
Or maybe these developments have the potential to be revolutionary
but remain quite distinct from each other. They develop over a much
longer period and perhaps a century from now will have accumulated
into something significant but difficult to glimpse. In any event the
world of 2020 is likely to be fairly familiar with only a few surprises
along the way. Given what we now know, the surprises are most likely to
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
come in biology. So we could imagine some fairly radical developments
such as cures for many diseases and even the beginnings of age reversal
and life extension.
But what if these developments are truly revolutionary and they
interact to feed on each other along with many other fields to drive an
explosive period of change. In part, of course, the drive comes from the
high rewards now available for new technology. But ideas, talent, power,
and wealth could combine to fuel a revolution in science and tech-
nology. It could create a conceptual “singularity,” as Vernor Vinge
described this moment. It becomes progressively more difficult to
imagine the emerging world as the pace and magnitude of change con-
tinue to accelerate. Like the Spanish peasant, we may want to hug the
ground as the emerging universe whirls around us.
We can imagine the consequences of some of the new world view.
We would inhabit a highly interconnected universe in which human
action matters but one in which control is extremely difficult. We would
have remarkable new capabilities to manufacture new devices and new
materials in entirely ecologically benign ways. We might even have
new clean energy sources. It would be as different from today as a world
of airplanes and automobiles was from the horse and buggy and
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
At 9:00 p.m. the alarm from Katherine’s internal digital-clock
appendage startles her, making her nearly drop the culture she’s been
working on for the past two hours. After a morning of answering
questions from the press, an afternoon of virtual meetings with other
scientists in France, home of the world leaders in neuromachines, the
only time she can get to make use of her doctorate in biomechanics is
late in the evenings. Katherine reluctantly pulls herself from her work
and carefully stores the culture so she can finish her experiment in the
morning. She removes her lab coat and exits the lab, headed toward her
corner office. She passes a line of offices where others are still engrossed
in their work. One woman is on the phone setting up meetings with the
congressional Bio-Machines Oversight Committee. Another woman
tries to finish an article for the Times on the company’s current research
into external uteruses and its potential effects on unborn fetuses and
gender inequalities in the workplace. A gentleman is finishing
paperwork to be submitted to the company’s pro-bono division on the
long-term effects of a $40 million donation he oversaw to distribute the
AIDS vaccine in Kenya and Zimbabwe.
Katherine slowly walks through the front door. She’s tired but
decides to not spring for another dose of caffeine. Her vitals monitor
tells her that her heart rate is low and her blood sugar and potassium
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
levels are too low—precisely at the right levels for deep REM sleep. She
waits impatiently for two minutes as the valet retrieves her car. Before
she left her desk, Katherine told her computer via the brain-com inter-
face to have her car waiting for her at the North Lobby. The delay
caused by the congressionally mandated requirement that only humans
drive cars frustrates her—machines are more reliable and efficient, she
thinks to herself. Finally, the valet driving her car arrives. She tips him
and then pushes the “home” button on her GPS navigator. The car
slowly exits the parking lot. “I’m still pushing buttons,” she thinks to
herself. If she had the latest model car with the brain-com interface
introduced by her company, she wouldn’t have to press a button. Ten
minutes later she’s home.
Katherine unlocks her apartment door via the fingerprint-encoded
lock, drops her things, then rushes to the computer to download her
thoughts about exactly where she was in the experiment so she can start
back up the next day. As her brain is scanned, she also tells her micro-
wave to heat some milk for her to drink to help her off to sleep. Before
bed, she prints a copy of the day’s newspaper. Though paper is a thing of
the past, reading from printed sheets reminds her of her childhood and
helps her get to sleep.
“Wednesday, March 15, 2018,” she says aloud. “What a day in
history!” Five years ago, to the day, marked the beginning of the second
attack into Iraq. The Baath Party reemerged to seize the government
despite the efforts of the United States and the United Nations to estab-
lish democracy following the first war in 2003. Following evidence that
new programs to field nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons had
emerged, the UN, led by the United States, sent in bombers, followed
by ground troops to oust the Baath Party again. Unwilling to yield so
quickly this time, party leaders ordered the launch of biological weapons
on the U.S. troops and also sent drones over Israel to spray a deadly,
genetically modified variant of Ebola that Iraqi scientists were able to
develop through advances using stem cells. Ebola-C, as it was called in
this country, a powerful virus that could spread through any bodily
fluid exchange, would attach itself to vulnerable cells in the body and
modify its genetic information such that the cells it would spawn would
burst, spreading the virus further through the body until a major organ
was destroyed. Death was certain within one to six weeks. Five hundred
thousand troops, 79 percent of the troops sent to the Middle East, were
killed by the initial release. One million people in Israel were killed. The
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
virus spread through many parts of the Middle East, leading to the
deaths of 3.5 million more people within three months.
Galvanized by the threat of a worldwide pandemic, public health
organizations around the world focused on finding a cure for the
Ebola-C virus. Fortunately for the United States, the disease did not
travel to the States. Nevertheless, the public was stunned by the swift-
ness and scope of the attack and was intent on redoubling efforts to
advance the country’s knowledge of the life sciences to defend against
similar terrorist attacks. To facilitate R&D, a major policy change was
made to encourage stem cell research. Shortly thereafter, federal research
funds, on par with funds invested during the cold war, were provided
specifically for research in the life sciences. Los Alamos, Sandia, and
Lawrence Livermore national laboratories and the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration developed biological sciences programs,
recruiting top researchers, M.D.-Ph.D.s, biologists, chemists, physicists,
and engineers to the task of building up America’s life sciences know-
how. All of the top universities expanded their degree programs in
bioengineering—biomechanical, bioelectrical, biochemical engineering.
The race for a cure for Ebola-C, and for further advances in life sciences,
had begun. In four short months a cure and a vaccine for Ebola-C were
developed in France, where researchers had long been doing stem cell
research and where many top U.S. scientists had emigrated so they could
continue their work in the early 2000s. The United States continued to
press fundamental life sciences research and by 2017 was again the world
leader in the life sciences arena. Cures and vaccines for AIDS, cancer,
anthrax, and most of the other deadly diseases had been developed.
Flush with success but somewhat removed in time from the last
warfare/terrorist event, the United States established many governmental
oversight committees to monitor and direct research dollars, fueled by
religious conservatives still concerned about potential “creation of life”
abuses and by antiglobal business activists protesting the profits of U.S.
biotechnology companies. Universities began to develop degree
programs in ethics, life sciences, and society; courses in biological
advances were added to liberal arts programs; and courses in ethics were
made requirements in all science and engineering degree programs. By
2017 there were a plethora of bio start-ups and bio products on the
market, selling everything from internal vital monitors, weight loss drugs
to reprogram the body to stop creating fat cells, memory-enhancing
drugs, biomaterial prostheses, and replacement internal organs. The year
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
2018 brought the release of brain-machine-interacting products, fol-
lowing the huge leaps that had come in understanding the brain and
advances in nanotechology and microelectronic mechanical systems.
Brain-machine communication devices for computers became common-
place, leading to decreased sales of keyboards. In the homes of those
with the highest incomes, it’s not uncommon to find the entire home
equipped with wireless brain-com controllers for TVs and kitchen
Katherine sipped her milk and skimmed through the day’s national
headlines. “Chess Olympiad’s Medal Rescinded After Use of Memory
Appendage,” she reads. “Religious Conservatives Protest Baby-Engineering
Research.” Not tonight, she thinks to herself. On the education pages
she sees the title, “Engineering Schools Recruiting Male Applicants into
Life Sciences Careers.” She smiles to herself, remembering the late 1990s
when men largely dominated engineering classes at most universities.
When Katherine entered MIT in 2002, near the beginning of the life
sciences boom, she was one of the few women double majoring in
physics and biology. She and many of her female classmates sought
careers that would have an impact on people’s lives and thus chose to
enter the bio arena for graduate school. By the time Katherine was in
graduate school, the number of women in engineering degree programs
equaled that of men nationwide—with many women concentrated in
the engineering aspects of the life sciences. Many of her colleagues
garnered technical jobs; others became part of the political landscape by
joining the staffs of congressional oversight committees; still others
engaged in public relations and marketing for the top life sciences com-
panies. Katherine’s closest friend in graduate school, Ayodele Amana
from Lagos, Nigeria, decided to spend her life getting the advances in
life sciences all the way to the poorest migrants in Africa, who badly
needed AIDS vaccinations and even the simplest of vitamins and water
purification techniques that were commonplace in America generations
ago. With the network of people Ayodele had met in graduate school,
she was able to start a nonprofit that was largely funded by the larger bio
corporations in the States. The disparity between the rich and poor was
still growing, but through the work of people like Ayodele the rate was
The time 9:45 p.m. flashed in Katherine’s mind. If she was going to
get up early the next morning to get some lab time in before handling
the press conference, she would have to get to sleep soon. So she set her
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
alarm for 6:00 a.m., got in bed, told her steamer what outfit she wanted
to wear the next day, turned off all the lights in her house, and then laid
back and closed her eyes. “After all the life sciences advances of the past
15 years,” Katherine thought to herself, “why is it that we haven’t figured
out an alternative to sleeping?”
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Global Context
In the beginning, at least, Johannesburg proved little different than
Rio—high hopes but a disappointing level of global action. In the ab-
sence of binding agreements or catalyzing events, the world by 2010
was a natural projection of what existed at the start of the 21st century.
There were, to be sure, another 400 million people, and significant
increases in cheap computing power had occurred. In “have” countries,
that played out into increased visualization and computational abilities
that incrementally pushed medicine, engineering, science, and business.
Meanwhile, ethical storms over biological manipulation and bio-
mechanical hybridization held the public’s real attention.
In the other three-fourths of the world, survival remained the
dominant imperative. By 2010, developing nations experienced pre-
mature deaths of nearly 3 million citizens per year due to inadequate
water, food distribution, and power infrastructures. As in the previous
decades, unless those deaths fell close together geographically and
temporally so that the media could effectively cover a “disaster,” little
happened. The 400,000 who starved in the Somali drought in 2005 did
elicit food aid for East Africa. But sadly, when three times that number
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
died from contaminated water the next year in all of Africa, little
By 2020 advances in many fields held hope for the now 7.1 billion
occupants of earth. Genetically altered food had, for better or worse,
been accepted in Europe and Africa and starvation was less frequent.
Major advances in conservation had taken place in some parts of the
world, while others burned their energy with abandon. Petroleum was
still the key to transportation and major power plants continued to
dominate electricity distribution, though the first real economic inroads
of alternative energy sources took hold late in the decade. The predicted
ecological collapse had not happened yet. Doomsayers saw dirty water,
air, and soil just around the corner, while others declared that earth’s
systems were far too robust to falter simply because virtually the whole
planet was now farmed, lived on, or otherwise used for human purposes.
The world also finally stepped up to the titanic problem of provid-
ing clean water for every person every day. The cost was not low, both in
disruption and dollars. Water was used in greater harmony with the
climate; rice was no longer grown in deserts. And through a concerted
effort, low-cost solutions for providing clean water in the poorest regions
were paid for and implemented by the G8 (with the help and coopera-
tion of all nations). This effort surpassed all of the more glamorous
advances in biotechnology for preserving human life. While breath-
taking (and much breath was spent debating their morality), the benefits
of cloning and nano-biotechnology were available only in the wealthy
portions of the world.
Natural disasters continued at an even pace. AIDS predictably killed
150 million people by 2020, but the epidemic dramatically slowed, as
the pool of people infected got smaller. Earthquake abatement strategies
continued to be enforced in Japan and California: new buildings were
built to code, older buildings were retooled. Hurricane evacuation routes
along the Gulf and Florida coasts, along with an increase in the ability
to forecast hurricanes, limited human death but not property destruction.
Politically these were turbulent times. Local wars and uprisings
seemed endemic. While the Afghan conflict started the century, other
hot spots in Asia, Africa, and South America seemed to flare up two or
three at a time. As one area found peace or at least a tense calm, it
seemed two more wars sprang up. Nothing ever escalated to engulf an
entire region—though the 2012 Korean affair easily might have, given
the posturing of China and the United States. And the predicted global
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
chaos from a major cyberterrorism attack on the economic system never
occurred—though not for lack of trying. Fortunately, so far the security
people have stayed just far enough ahead of the terrorists, and the hits
that have occurred were best described as disruptive but not devastating.
Natural Disasters
It was a dark and stormy night in Miami. Hurricane Stephan, the
fifth category 5 storm to lash Florida in 2011 and the twelfth hurricane
of the year, was holding sway on October 10. Yet the damage would not
be what it might have been. The reasons are complex, but probably two
tell the story best. One is the increased power of computers, and the
other was the 2004 United Nations conference on disaster prevention,
generally known as the “disaster conference,” the recommendations of
which Floridians (and residents of Tokyo, Singapore, and most disaster-
plagued areas) are happy to have heeded. The conference was the result
of insurance company pressures combined with increased abilities to
predict severe events and fairly solid predictions of increased natural
Essentially, the world representatives decided the chances of an
increase in the number, severity, and points of landfall for hurricanes
were high enough to take preventive actions. Response was primarily of
a planning and education nature until a significant improvement in
both climate models and cutting-edge computational power combined
to give a (relatively) convincing prediction of an oncoming era of many
very large hurricanes. At that point, serious money was spent to prepare.
By the demonic Atlantic hurricane season of 2011, major hardening of
both homes and public infrastructure was a reality. While there is little
that can be done about tornadoes imbedded in 125-mph baseline winds,
the rise of distributed power in hurricane areas did much to alleviate the
scope of power loss. Major public buildings (hospitals, etc.) were
upgraded to withstand those winds. Localities equipped community
centers with steady supplies of food and water due to regular, if tempo-
rary, evacuations. More folks bought generators to share or to use at
home. Residents moved out of the lowest areas when it became clear
they would be wiped out by storm surges nearly every year and when
faced with financial incentives, both positive and negative, that is, the
unavailability of low-cost loans to rebuild and tax incentives to move.
The net result was a big increase in retirement communities in Arizona
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
and a corresponding decline in Florida. Tourism faded some in Florida,
especially from June through December. The state offered tax incentives
for low-cost industries to relocate inland.
The “disaster conference” seems to have missed tsunami coverage.
Looking back on the 2004 world conference, the one major “mistake”
was downgrading to less important efforts to protect against tidal waves.
At the time the chances seemed too low and the cost too high. And the
asteroid striking the Pacific Ocean in 2017 was certainly a surprise. It
didn’t fit the “insurance” model; 1.3 million died in the Puget Sound
region alone, and the economic cost was in the multiple trillions of
dollars in the United States alone (Tokyo did not suffer a direct tidal hit,
a blessing that saved 10 million lives).
The almost total destruction of the heart of two major corporations
combined with public panic caused the biggest stock market plunge in
U.S. history, and, until industry worked out the effects, the whole
country suffered. The loss of the ports of Vancouver and Seattle crippled
southwestern Canada and the northwestern United States. The grain
crop of eastern Washington was partly lost since it could not be shipped.
Logging virtually ceased because product could not be shipped. The
loss of inland jobs was a surprise addition to the “wave” of depression
that followed the wave of water. Virtually everyone in the surrounding
200 miles lost a friend or family member. Psychiatric services were
swamped. Suicide levels tripled in Washington.
The collapse of Microsoft and Boeing, combined with the almost
total collapse of the insurance industry, plunged financial markets world-
wide into a tailspin. Almost overnight, investors opted out of the
market—until they could figure out where to put their money, they sat
on it. The northwest power grid went down, taking parts of California
and Oregon with it. The country did respond: rolling brownouts across
the West shared the burden but hurt manufacturing everywhere. Fear-
ing the future, people stopped buying all but the essentials. They didn’t
leave their homes as often.
The public health system in the Seattle area was a disaster. Beyond
the immediate deaths, hundreds of thousands died due to their inability
to get treatment or even prescription medicines. Epidemics of cholera
and other waterborne diseases were rampant. There was little fresh water,
other than what was provided in disaster relief.
Fires from the failure of fuel pipelines, large and small, caused
destruction of many buildings that actually survived the wave. To help
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
in the disaster and aid recovery, much of the U.S. military was deployed
to the area. Soldiers were the construction workers, road builders,
electric power restorers, and food distributors. This use of military
personnel immediately reduced the ability of the United States to send
forces into the rest of the world and thus reduced the country’s ability to
fight a foreign threat.
In the ensuing years a great deal of effort went into determining
areas of historic vulnerability, methods to passively disrupt Tsunami,
and relocation of the most essential institutions. Tidal waves now carry
the urgency of their fraternal twins—earthquakes. Seattle is now the
model city in this planning. Most property below what is known now as
the “high water mark” is devoted to parks and “expendable” uses. All
essential services are routed underground. The innovations are innu-
merable. In the end it was cascading effects that determined the scale of
devastation and convinced the world that the cost of preparing for tidal
waves was not too high.
Other world events paled in comparison to Seattle’s tsunami. In
general, the trends of the decade continued. There were no major
volcanic eruptions in populated areas. Until Seattle, proposed efforts to
protect the few U.S. cities at threat for natural disasters were a constant
target for budget trimming.
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Global Conflict
The Washington bomb went off in 2013. Members of the adminis-
tration and other world leaders died instantly, reawakening the U.S.
populace to the realization that the lull in terrorism in the mainland
United States since September 2001 was illusory. The driving factors
were little changed over the intervening 12+ years. In the West, eco-
nomic and societal disparities grew extreme, while in the East pressures
from population explosions and religious fundamentalism continued
The bombardment of the World Trade Center towers in 2001
opened eyes to the increasing technological disparities between the
nations. An immediate military response removed that particular group
of terrorists, but others saw the attack as a major success and made plans
of their own. The ensuing world action taken against Iraq created illu-
sions of peace and prosperity for the next few years, but while economic
development returned to breakneck pace, the influences that precipi-
tated the first attack only worsened.
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
New worries began in 2004 when Pakistan’s government was taken
over by a group of religious fundamentalists, whose agenda included
shaking off the effects of American cultural imperialism. Political and
religious alliances in the Middle East sprouted, making it clear that any
military action would result in a conflagration of the whole region, thus
preventing outside involvement. Tensions grew in the Kashmir region,
and a nuclear skirmish was narrowly averted thanks to surprise inter-
vention by the Chinese, where the communist party remains in power
to this day. Small-scale terrorism began around the world, and even
though many of the attacks were attributed to the new extremist
regimes, no efforts were taken to displace them.
After the horrific terrorist attacks at the Olympics in 2008, foreign
vacation travel all but ceased, and governments started tightening their
borders to prevent future attacks. These protectionist tactics crippled
the world economy, reducing trade and ending economic cooperation.
The United States saw equal gains in defense spending and its homeless
populations; homeland defense and military spending reached half of
the receding gross domestic product in 2010. To make matters worse,
new restrictions were placed on visas for foreign graduate students and
on H-1B visas, bringing university science and engineering research pro-
grams to a low ebb and strangling small businesses that could not afford
to compete for scarce technical personnel.
To some, terrorism and the military actions to combat it were linked
with the availability of technology; thus, in 2020 they found themselves
fearing technology and those who wielded it as much as they once loved
it. For them, economic, political, and religious beliefs have eclipsed a
belief in the value of technology, taking away both the demand and the
desire to engineer new devices.
Despite efforts worldwide to close borders, a rise in terrorism
appeared in the major economic powers—even Japan and Switzerland
saw increased activities, driven as much by a desire to attack sources of
technology as by a desire to attack the nation itself. Feelings of national-
ism reduced international cooperation. Stuck in their own downward
economic spiral, many countries eliminated their aid to Africa and
South America. Heightened security led to groups curtailing all efforts
to distribute better technologies to third world nations, leading to
rampant problems with sanitation and water quality. These events
sparked more desperate measures to express anger over the divide
between affluent and impoverished societies.
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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
In the face of terrorist threats, the developed world moved to isolate
the developing world to the degree that it could. Among traditional
trading partners, it remained business as usual. While major inter-
national companies had long moved manufacturing and technical
service jobs overseas in search of low-cost suppliers, the pressure to
outsource “creative” jobs, such as engineering design, mounted. This
placed severe downward pressure on the availability of engineering jobs
in the U.S. economy. Further factors helping to displace jobs for new
engineers were the productivity enhancements made possible by
computer-aided design and software engineering. A new bimodal class
system of engineers emerged: an elite few charged with controlling soft-
ware improvements and a lesser class of technicians who executed the
standard programs and implemented the results. Engineers found few
jobs outside the defense industry, and only the major engineering
universities survived the downturn in enrollments.
Dangerous concentrations of disaffected young people existed in
many developing countries, driven by modest improvements in health
care and high birth rates. Those countries with more enlightened leader-
ship recognized that education is a solution and that technology is the
engine of growth and thus moved to create or enhance their systems of
technical education. The cadres of scientists and engineers created were
available for outsourcing of technical jobs from the United States while
their indigenous industries were being created.
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Appendix B
Workshop Attendees
Philip Condit (NAE)
Chairman and CEO
The Boeing Company
Bran Ferren
Co-chairman and Chief Creative Officer
Applied Minds, Inc.
Shirley A. Jackson (NAE)
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Peter Schwartz
Global Business Networks
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Richard Y. Chiao
Ultrasounds Systems Engineering
General Electric Medical Systems
Lloyd S. Cluff (NAE)
Geosciences Department
Pacific Gas and Electric Company
Connie L. Gutowski
Director (former)
6 Sigma/Truck Business Group
Ford Motor Company
Charles Hura
Engineering Manager
Eastman Kodak Company
Scott W. Jorgensen
Energy Storage Systems Group
General Motors R&D Center
Karen W. Markus
Vice President
Technology Strategy
JDS Uniphase Corporation
Paul MacCready (NAE)
AeroVironment, Inc.
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Gary S. May
Executive Assistant to the President
Motorola Foundation Professor of Microelectronics in Electrical and
Computer Engineering
Office of the President
Georgia Institute of Technology
Pamela McCorduck
Eugene S. Meieran (NAE)
Intel Fellow and Director
Intel Corporation
Jill T. Sideman
Director and Vice President
Marvin Theimer
Senior Researcher
Microsoft Research
Rudolph Tromp
Engineering Consultant
Corporate Technical Strategy and Development
IBM Corporation
Ron Grover
College of Engineering
University of Michigan
Danielle Hinton
Department of Electrical Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Elizabeth Hollenbeck
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
University of California at Irvine
Alan J. Michaels
College of Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology
G. Wayne Clough (NAE), Chair
Georgia Institute of Technology
Alice M. Agogino (NAE)
Roscoe and Elizabeth Hughes Professor of Mechanical Engineering
University of California, Berkeley
George Campbell, Jr.
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Art and Science
James Chavez
Government Relations
Sandia National Laboratory
David O. Craig
Retail IT—Back Office Applications
Reliant Energy
José B. Cruz, Jr. (NAE)
Howard D. Winbigler Chair in Engineering and Professor of Electrical
The Ohio State University
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Peggy Girshman
Broadcast Journalist
National Public Radio
Daniel E. Hastings
Professor of Engineering Systems and Aeronautics and Astronautics
Massachussetts Institute of Technology
Michael J. Heller
Department of Bioengineering/Electronic Engineering and Computer
University of California, San Diego
Deborah G. Johnson
Olsson Professor of Applied Ethics
Department of Technology, Culture and Communication
University of Virginia
Alan C. Kay (NAE)
Founder and President
Viewpoints Research Institute
Tarek Khalil
Professor, Department of Industrial Engineering
University of Miami
Robert W. Lucky (NAE)
Corporate Vice President
Telcordia Technologies
John M. Mulvey
Professor, Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering
Princeton University
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Sharon L. Nunes
Vice President, Emerging Businesses
T.J. Watson Research Center
IBM Corporation
Henry Petroski (NAE)
Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and Professor of History
Duke University
Sue V. Rosser
Dean of Ivan Allen College
The Liberal Arts College of Georgia Tech and Professor of History,
Technology, and Society
Georgia Institute of Technology
Ernest T. Smerdon (NAE)
Emeritus Professor of Civil Engineering and Professor of Hydrology
University of Arizona
Wm. A. Wulf (NAE), President
Lance A. Davis (NAE), Executive Officer
Proctor Reid, Associate Director, Program Office
Patricia F. Mead, Senior Program Officer
Matthew E. Caia, Senior Project Assistant
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Appendix C
Biographical Sketches of
Committee Members
G. WAYNE CLOUGH (chair) is president of the Georgia Institute of
Technology and a recognized leader in engineering education and
research. A civil engineer, he holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from
Georgia Tech and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.
He served on the faculties of Stanford and Duke universities before
becoming head of the civil engineering department and then dean of
the College of Engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State
University. Prior to returning to his alma mater as president, he was
provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of
Washington. His professional expertise in geotechnical and earthquake
engineering is reflected in the 120 papers and reports and six book chap-
ters he has published. He has consulted with 60 firms and boards and is
presently a special consultant to San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit
for ongoing major seismic retrofit operations. His broader interests in-
clude technology and higher education policy, economic development,
diversity in higher education, and technology in a global setting. In
2001, President George W. Bush appointed Dr. Clough to the
President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and he
chairs the panel on federal research and development. He is also a mem-
ber of the executive committee of the U.S. Council on Competitive-
ness. He received the 2001 National Engineering Award from the
American Association of Engineering Societies, and the American
Society of Civil Engineers has recognized him with seven national
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
awards. He is one of the few to have been twice honored with civil
engineering’s oldest award, the Norman Medal. He was elected to the
National Academy of Engineering in 1990.
ALICE M. AGOGINO is the Roscoe and Elizabeth Hughes Professor
of Mechanical Engineering and directs several computational and design
research and instructional laboratories at the University of California
(UC), Berkeley. She received a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the
University of New Mexico, an M.S. in mechanical engineering in 1978
from UC Berkeley, and a Ph.D. from the Department of Engineering-
Economic Systems at Stanford University in 1984. She has authored
over 120 scholarly publications in the areas of microelectronic
mechanical systems/mechatronics design methods; nonlinear optimiza-
tion; intelligent learning systems; multiobjective and strategic product
design; probabilistic modeling; intelligent control and manufacturing;
graphics, multimedia, and computer-aided design; design databases;
digital libraries; artificial intelligence and decision and expert systems;
and gender and technology. She has won numerous teaching, best paper,
and research awards. Dr. Agogino is known internationally as a leader in
engineering education and is a member of the National Academy of
Engineering’s Committee on Engineering Education. She served as
director for Synthesis, a National Science Foundation/industry-
sponsored coalition of eight universities with the goal of reforming
undergraduate engineering education, and continues as principal inves-
tigator for the NEEDS ( and SMETE.ORG digital
libraries of courseware in science, mathematics, engineering, and
technology. Dr. Agogino has also served in a number of administrative
positions at UC Berkeley, including associate dean of engineering,
director of the Instructional Technology Program, and faculty assistant
to the executive vice chancellor and provost in educational development
and technology. Professor Agogino is a registered professional mechanical
engineer in California and is engaged in a number of collaborative
projects with industry. Prior to joining the faculty at UC Berkeley, she
worked in industry for Dow Chemical, General Electric, and SRI
GEORGE CAMPBELL, JR., is president of The Cooper Union for
the Advancement of Science and Art, one of America’s most selective
institutions of higher education. Previously, Dr. Campbell served as
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
president and chief executive officer of NACME, Inc., and in various
R&D and management positions at AT&T Bell Laboratories. Earlier in
his career, Dr. Campbell served on the faculties of Syracuse University
and Nkumbi International College in Zambia. He has published
numerous papers and is coeditor of Access Denied: Race, Ethnicity and
the Scientific Enterprise (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2000).
Dr. Campbell currently serves on the board of directors of Consoli-
dated Edison, Inc., and as a trustee of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute,
Montefiore Medical Center, and the New York Hall of Science. He has
also served on a number of science and technology policy bodies,
including the Morella Commission of the U.S. Congress, the U.S.
Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board, National Research Council
committees and as chair of the New York City Chancellor’s Task Force
on Science Education. Among his many awards are two honorary
doctorates. A graduate of the Executive Management Program at Yale
University, Dr. Campbell earned a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from
Syracuse University and a B.S. in physics from Drexel University, where
he was a Simon Guggenheim Scholar.
JAMES CHAVEZ, prior to being awarded an American Society of
Mechanical Engineers (ASME) federal government fellowship, was man-
ager of Sandia National Laboratories government relations organization.
In this position he worked closely with Sandia’s leadership and Congress
to address national issues on energy, weapons stewardship, and science
and technology. Chavez has also participated in the research, development,
and demonstration of renewable technologies for utility applications.
His responsibilities included managing the activities for the Depart-
ment of Energy’s Concentrating Solar Power Program and Biomass
Power and Solar Buildings Program. He also served as manager of the
National Solar Thermal Test Facility at Sandia National Laboratories
(Albuquerque), the largest solar test facility in the United States. He
contributed to the conception, development, construction, and testing
of the world’s largest solar power plant, the 10 MWe Solar Two Power
Plant in Barstow, California. Chavez earned his bachelor’s and master’s
degrees in mechanical engineering from New Mexico State University,
Las Cruces, in 1981, and the University of California, Berkeley, in 1982,
respectively. In 1997 he was named recipient of the Hispanic Professional
Engineers Award for Professional Achievement and became a member
of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers that same year.
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
DAVID O. CRAIG is currently director of IT Back Office Applications
for Reliant Resources, Inc., in Houston, Texas. He is primarily respon-
sible for development, maintenance, and operations of the Internet and
Intranet applications required to support the corporate and retail groups,
specifically for the unregulated environment. Prior to joining Reliant in
February 2000, Craig was with Compaq Computer Corporation. Dur-
ing his two years there, he was a manager in the Advanced Engineering
Group where he was responsible for the design and implementation of
the systems and automated equipment required to manufacture and
test an advanced digital data monitor. Craig was also responsible for the
patent portfolio development and prosecution and for the intellectual
property strategy and operations sections of the business plan. Craig
was a staff software engineer with IBM Corporation for over nine years,
where his expertise was in the development of custom real-time control
systems, manufacturing execution systems, and automated manufactur-
ing systems for Fortune 500 companies. In 1996 he received the Out-
standing Young Manufacturing Engineer Award and participated in the
Frontiers of Engineering symposia of the National Academy of Engi-
neering in Irvine, California, and Bremen, Germany. Craig has served
on the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Education Foundation
Committee for four years and as a Society of Manufacturing Engineers
chapter chairman for two years. Craig holds two B.S. degrees from the
Texas A&M Dwight Look College of Engineering and an M.S. from
the University of Texas at Austin, where he received the George
Kozmetsky Award. He holds three U.S. patents, has coauthored 11 pub-
lications in IBM’s Technical Disclosure Bulletin, and was recognized
with a First Level Invention Award.
JOSÉ B. CRUZ, JR., is the Howard D. Winbigler Chair in Engineer-
ing and a professor of electrical engineering at Ohio State University.
From 1992 to 1997 he served as dean of engineering at Ohio State. He
is also secretary of the Section on Engineering for the American Asso-
ciation for the Advancement of Science. Cruz was elected a member of
the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 1980. He received the
Richard E. Bellman Control Heritage Award from the American Auto-
matic Control Council in 1994 and is a fellow of the Institute of
Electrical and Electronics Engineers, elected in 1968. As a member of
the NAE, Cruz currently serves on the Peer Committee on Electronics
Engineering and served on the Committee on Diversity in the Engineer-
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
ing Workforce from 1999 to 2002 and the Academic Advisory Board
from 1994 to 1997. Cruz has published several articles in scholarly jour-
nals and has edited and coauthored numerous books about electrical
engineering. Cruz received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the
University of Illinois, Urbana, his S.M. in electrical engineering from
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his B.S. in electrical
engineering, summa cum laude, from the University of the Philippines.
PEGGY GIRSHMAN has been a broadcast journalist for 26 years. She
spent her formative years working as a segment and show producer for
commercial stations in Washington, D.C., and as a senior producer for
several PBS series, including Scientific American Frontiers and a 26-part
series on statistics. She had several positions as an editor at National
Public Radio (NPR) in science and domestic news and as deputy man-
aging editor. She was part of three start-up operations: Satellite News
Channel, Monitor News Channel (Christian Science Monitor), and
Video News International (a New York Times company attempting to
pioneer the use of small-format video journalism). She has had two
journalism fellowships, one at the Marine Biological Lab, the other at
MIT. She was a senior medical/science producer at Dateline NBC and
is now back at NPR News as an assistant managing editor. She is the
winner of a national Emmy award, four local Emmy awards, and two
Peabody awards for covering health care and is a cowinner of a science-
writing prize from the American Association for the Advancement of
Science. She serves on the board of the National Association of Science
Writers and on the Journalism Fellowship for Child and Family Policy
and has helped select journalists for the Knight Science Journalism
Fellowship at MIT.
DANIEL E. HASTINGS is currently a professor of aeronautics and
astronautics and engineering systems at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology (MIT). He is also director of MIT’s Technology and Policy
Program and associate director of the Engineering Systems Division.
He served as chief scientist of the Air Force from 1997 to 1999. In that
role he served as chief scientific adviser to the chief of staff and the
secretary and provided assessments on a wide range of scientific and
technical issues affecting the Air Force mission. He led several influen-
tial studies on where the Air Force should invest in space, global energy
projection, and options for a science and technology workforce for the
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
21st century. He received a Ph.D. in aeronautics and astronautics in
1980 from MIT. From 1980 to 1985 he worked for Physical Sciences,
Inc., and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the fields of laser-material
interactions and fusion plasma physics. In 1985 he joined the aeronautics
and astronautics faculty at MIT as an assistant professor. His research
has concentrated on issues related to spacecraft-environmental inter-
actions, space propulsion, space systems engineering, and space policy.
He has published many papers and a book on spacecraft-environment
interactions and several papers on space propulsion and space systems.
He has taught courses and seminars in plasma physics, rocket propul-
sion, advanced space power and propulsion systems, aerospace policy,
and space systems engineering. His recent research has concentrated on
issues of space systems and space policy. He is a fellow of the American
Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a member of the Inter-
national Academy of Astronautics. He serves as a member of the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration Advisory Council and
the National Academies Government-University-Industry Research
Roundtable and is chair of the Applied Physics Lab Science and Tech-
nology Advisory Panel as well as the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board.
He is a member of the MIT Lincoln Laboratory Advisory Committee
and is on the board of trustees of the Aerospace Corporation. He also
served as a member of the National Academy of Engineering’s 1996 and
1997 Organizing Committee for the Frontiers of Engineering sympo-
sium. He is a consultant to the Institute for Defense Analysis.
MICHAEL J. HELLER is a founder of Nanogen, Inc., and has served
as its chief technical officer since September 1993. In November 1991,
Dr. Heller cofounded Nanogen’s former parent company, Nanotronics,
and since that time has served as vice president of research. He co-
founded and served as president and chief operating officer of Integrated
DNA Technologies from 1987 to 1989 and from 1984 to 1987 served
as director of molecular biology for Molecular Biosystems, Inc. Prior to
1984 he served as supervisor of DNA Technology and Molecular
Biology for Standard Oil Company. Dr. Heller received a Ph.D. in bio-
chemistry from Colorado State University.
DEBORAH G. JOHNSON is the Anne Shirley Carter Olsson Professor
of Applied Ethics, Division of Technology, Culture, and Communica-
tion, School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Virginia. She is the author/editor of four books: Computer Ethics (now
in its third edition; Prentice Hall, 2001), Computers, Ethic and Social
Values (coedited with Helen Nissenbaum; Prentice Hall, 1995), Ethical
Issues in Engineering (Prentice Hall, 1991), and Ethical Issues in the Use
of Computers (coedited with John Snapper; Wadsworth Publishing Co.,
1985) and dozens of articles focusing on engineering and computer
ethics and technology policy. Active in professional organizations,
Professor Johnson has served as president of the Society for Philosophy
and Technology, treasurer of the Association for Computing Machinery
(ACM) Special Interest Group on Computers and Society (SIGCAS),
and chair of the American Philosophical Association Committee on
Computer Use in Philosophy. Currently, she serves as president of a
new professional society, the International Society for Ethics and Infor-
mation Technology. In 2000 Professor Johnson received the ACM
SIGCAS Making a Difference Award, and in 2001 she received the
American Society for Engineering Education Sterling Olmsted Award
for “innovative contributions to liberal education within engineering
ALAN C. KAY is a senior fellow at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories and
founder and president of Viewpoints Research Institute, Inc., best
known for the ideas of personal computing, the intimate laptop com-
puter, and the inventions of the now ubiquitous overlapping-window
interface and modern object-oriented programming. His deep interests
in children and education were the catalysts for these ideas, and they
continue to be a source of inspiration to him. One of the founders of
the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), he led one of the several
groups that together developed modern workstations (and the fore-
runners of the Macintosh), Smalltalk, the overlapping-window inter-
face, Desktop Publishing, the Ethernet, Laser printing, and network
“client-servers.” Prior to his work at Xerox, Dr. Kay was a member of
the University of Utah Advanced Research Projects Agency research
team that developed three-dimensional graphics. There he earned a doc-
torate (with distinction) in 1969 for developing of the first graphical
object-oriented personal computer. He holds undergraduate degrees in
mathematics and molecular biology from the University of Colorado
and master of science and doctoral degrees in computer science from
the University of Utah. Kay also participated in the original design of
the ARPANet, which later became the Internet. After Xerox PARC, Kay
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
was chief scientist of Atari, a fellow at Apple Computer for 12 years,
and then for 5 years vice president of research and development at the
Walt Disney Company. He then founded Viewpoints Research Institute
in 2001. Dr. Kay has received numerous honors, including the Association
for Computing Machinery (ACM) Software Systems Award, the ACM
Outstanding Educator Award, the J-D Warnier Prix D’Informatique,
and the NEC 2001 C&C Prize. He has been elected a fellow of the
American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society of Arts, and
the Computer Museum History Center and is a member of the National
Academy of Engineering. He recently received the ZeroOne Award from
the University of Berlin and the National Academy of Engineering’s
prestigious Charles Stark Draper Prize for his contributions to the devel-
opment of the world’s first practical networked personal computers. A
former professional jazz guitarist, composer, and theatrical designer, he
is now an amateur classical pipe organist.
TAREK M. KHALIL received his Ph.D. and M.S. in industrial
engineering from Texas Tech University and his B.S. in mechanical
engineering from Cairo University. He is a professor of industrial engi-
neering at the University of Miami and holds professorships in bio-
medical engineering, epidemiology and public health, and neurological
surgery. He served as chairman of the University of Miami Department
of Industrial Engineering and as dean of the University of Miami Gradu-
ate School. He is a registered professional engineer in the state of Florida.
Dr. Khalil is the founder and current president of the International
Association for Management of Technology and regional vice president
of Alpha Pi Mu. He served the Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE) as
chairman of the Council of Fellows, director of the Work Measurement
and Methods Engineering Division, vice president of Region IV, mem-
ber of the Board of Trustees, and president of the Miami Chapter.
Dr. Khalil is the recipient of many awards, including the Award for
Technical Innovation in Industrial Engineering; Doctor Honoris Causa
from the Institut National Polytechnique de Loraine, France; the Uni-
versity of Miami College of Engineering Researcher of the Year Award;
the IIE Phil Carroll Award; the David F. Baker Award; the IIE Ergo-
nomics Division Award; the Human Factors Society Paul M. Fitts
Award; and the Jack A. Craft Award. He is a member of Alpha Pi Mu,
Alpha Epsilon Lambda, Tau Beta Pi, Omicron Delta Kappa, Sigma Xi,
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Phi Kappa Phi, and many professional organizations. He is the author
of more than 300 publications and many books.
ROBERT W. LUCKY is a frequent columnist for IEEE Spectrum, dis-
cussing future scenarios of electrical engineers. Dr. Lucky previously
appeared on Bill Moyers’s show, “A World of Ideas,” where he discussed
the impacts of future technological advances. He is the author of the
popular book Silicon Dreams (St. Martin’s Press, 1989), which is a
semitechnical and philosophical discussion of the ways in which both
humans and computers deal with information. Dr. Lucky attended
Purdue University, where he received a B.S. degree in electrical
engineering in 1957 and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in 1959 and 1961,
respectively. After graduation he joined AT&T Bell Laboratories, where
he was initially involved in studying ways of sending digital information
over telephone lines. The best-known outcome of this work was his
invention of the adaptive equalizer—a technique for correcting distor-
tion in telephone signals that is used in all high-speed data transmissions
today. The textbook on data communications that he coauthored
became the most cited reference in the communications field over the
period of a decade. At Bell Labs he became executive director of the
Communications Sciences Research Division in 1982, where he was
responsible for research on the methods and technologies for future
communications systems. In 1992 he assumed his present position at
Telcordia. He has been active in professional activities and has served as
president of the Communications Society of the Institute of Electrical
and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and as vice president and executive
vice president of the parent IEEE itself. He has been editor of several
technical journals, including the Proceedings of the IEEE, and since 1982
has written the bimonthly “Reflections” column of personalized obser-
vations about the engineering profession for Spectrum magazine. A
collection of the articles appear in the book, Lucky Strikes . . . Again
(IEEE Press, 1993).
JOHN M. MULVEY is professor of operations research and financial
engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at
Princeton University. He is a leading expert in large-scale optimization
models and algorithms, especially financial applications. He has imple-
mented integrated risk management for many large companies,
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
including American Express, Towers Perrin–Tillinghast, Pacific Mutual,
St. Paul Insurance, and Siemens Financial Services. These systems link
the key risks within the organization and assist the company in making
high-level decisions. In addition, he has built significant planning
systems for government agencies, including the Office of Tax Analysis
for the Treasury Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Defense
Department, and personal planning for the U.S. Army. He has edited
four books and published over 100 scholarly papers.
SHARON L. NUNES is currently director of life sciences solutions at
IBM, responsible for bringing new technology solutions to the pharma-
ceutical and biotech markets. She was previously director of technology
evaluation, responsible for corporate-wide emerging technologies
activities. She has held many management positions at IBM, ranging
from research to development and manufacturing, as well as positions
in hardware development, software development, and networking.
Nunes spent 14 years in IBM research and was responsible for the launch
of IBM’s Computational Biology Center in 1997. This worldwide
research organization was a key driver in highlighting IBM’s business
opportunities in the life sciences market. Nunes received her Ph.D. in
materials science in 1983 from the University of Connecticut. She is a
member of the Advisory Council of the Whitaker Biomedical Engineer-
ing Institute at Johns Hopkins University, a member of the Board of
Governors of the Mathematical Sciences Institute at Ohio State
University, a member of the Board of Governors of the Advanced
Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, and a member of the
Board of Directors of the Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNP)
Consortium. She was a National Academy of Engineering “Frontiers of
Engineering” fellow in 2000.
HENRY PETROSKI is the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engi-
neering and a professor of history at Duke University. He has written on
many aspects of engineering and technology, including design, success
and failure, error and judgment, the history of engineering and tech-
nology, and the use of case studies in education and practice. His books
include: To Engineer Is Human (St. Martin’s Press, 1985), The Pencil
(Knopf, 1990), The Evolution of Useful Things (Knopf, 1992), Design
Paradigms (Cambridge University Press, 1994), Engineers of Dreams
(Knopf, 1995), Remaking the World (Knopf, 1997), Invention by Design
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
(Harvard University Press, 1998), The Book on the Bookshelf (Knopf,
1999), and Paperboy (Knopf, 2002), a memoir about the influences that
led him to become an engineer. In addition to having published the
usual technical articles in the refereed journals of applied mechanics,
Petroski has published numerous articles and essays in newspapers and
magazines, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall
Street Journal. Since 1991 he has written the engineering column in the
bimonthly magazine American Scientist and since 2000 has written a
column on the engineering profession for ASEE Prism. He lectures regularly
in the United States and abroad and has been interviewed frequently on
radio and television. Petroski is a professional engineer registered in
Texas. He has been a Guggenheim fellow, a National Endowment for
the Humanities fellow, and a National Humanities Center fellow.
Among his other honors are the Ralph Coats Roe Medal from the
American Society of Mechanical Engineers; the Civil Engineering His-
tory and Heritage Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers;
honorary degrees from Clarkson University, Trinity College (Hartford,
Conn.), and Valparaiso University; and distinguished engineering alum-
nus awards from Manhattan College and the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign. He is a fellow of the American Society of Civil
Engineers and the Institution of Engineers of Ireland, an honorary member
of the Moles, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.
SUE V. ROSSER has served as dean of Ivan Allen College, the liberal
arts college at Georgia Tech, where she is also a professor of history,
technology, and society, since July 1999. From July 1995 to July 1999,
Dr. Rosser served as professor of anthropology at the University of
Florida. She also directed the Center for Women’s Studies and Gender
Research. From July 1994 to December 1995 she was senior program
officer for women’s programs at the National Science Foundation. From
1986 to 1995 she served as director of women’s studies at the University
of South Carolina, where she also was a professor of family and preven-
tive medicine at the medical school. Dr. Rosser has researched and pub-
lished extensively on topics related to women in science fields. Her most
recent book is Re-Engineering Female Friendly Science (Teachers College
Press, 1997). She currently serves on the editorial boards of the National
Women’s Studies Association Journal and Women’s Studies Quarterly.
Dr. Rosser received her undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral degrees in
zoology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
ERNEST T. SMERDON, after three years as senior education associate
at the National Science Foundation, is dean emeritus at the University
of Arizona. He was vice provost and dean of the College of Engineering
there from 1988 to 1998. Earlier he held the Janet S. Cockrell Centen-
nial Chair in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of
Texas at Austin and prior to that the Bess Harris Jones Centennial Pro-
fessorship in Natural Resource Policy Studies at the LBJ School of Public
Affairs. From 1976 until 1982 he was vice chancellor for academic affairs
for the University of Texas system. Dr. Smerdon has been president of
the American Society for Engineering Education and chair of its Engi-
neering Deans Council. He was elected to the National Academy of
Engineering (NAE) in 1986. He has served on seven NAE committees
including as chair of its Committee on Career-Long Education for
Engineers, as a member of its Academic Advisory Board, and the Com-
mittee on the Technology Policy Options in a Global Economy. He has
served on 11 National Research Council committees and chaired two.
He was a board member of the Accreditation Board for Engineering
and Technology and represented the board on the Engineering Accredi-
tation Commission. He received the highest honor of the American
Society of Civil Engineers when he was elected an honorary member in
1994. Other society honors include awards from the American Society
of Civil Engineers, the American Society of Agricultural Engineers, and
the American Water Resources Association. His alma mater, the
University of Missouri, Columbia, chose him for the Honor Award for
Distinguished Service in Engineering and in December 2003 awarded
him an honorary degree, doctor of science, honoris causa. He was
program cochair for an international colloquium on engineering educa-
tion in Berlin sponsored by the American Society for Engineering
Education, the European Society for Engineering Education, and the
Berlin Technical University. He has written widely on engineering
education and has spoken on the subject in 12 countries outside the
United States. He now spends most of his time on engineering educa-
tion issues.
STEPHEN W. DIRECTOR is Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering
and professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the
University of Michigan. He received a B.S. degree from the State Uni-
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
versity of New York at Stony Brook in 1965 and his M.S. and Ph.D.
degrees in electrical engineering from the University of California,
Berkeley, in 1967 and 1968, respectively. From 1968 until 1977 he was
with the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of
Florida, Gainesville. He joined Carnegie Mellon University in 1977,
where he was Helen Whitaker University Professor of Electrical and
Computer Engineering, head of the Department of Electrical and Com-
puter Engineering from 1982 to 1991, and then dean of the College of
Engineering until June 1996. Dr. Director is a pioneer in the area of
computer-aided design and has a long record of commitment to and
innovation in engineering education, including authoring pioneering
textbooks and motivating and implementing new and innovative
electrical and computer engineering curricula. He has published over
150 papers and authored or coauthored six texts. He currently serves as
chair of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Committee on
Engineering Education and as chair of the Board of Directors of the
American Society for Engineering Education Engineering Deans
Council. He chaired the former NAE Academic Advisory Board. He
also serves on numerous other boards and committees and as a con-
sultant to industry and academia. Dr. Director has received many awards
for his research and educational contributions, including the 1998
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Education
Medal and the 1999 Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award from
the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Director is a fellow of the
IEEE and a member of the NAE.
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.