The Engineering Project Its Nature, Ethics, and Promise

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The Engineering Project Its Nature, Ethics, and Promise



Engineering is the practice of making good on the promise of technology. 
Technology, throughout history, has promised relief from the burdens of 

everyday life. Engineering practice has brought us an array of time- and 

labor-saving devices. The telephone, for instance, lifts the burden of distance 

between friends, family, neighbors, and others. In characterizing 

technology as disburdening, philosopher of technology Albert Borgmann 
also points to its disengaging character, which implies that typically we 
need have only minimal connection to or involvement with engineered 
devices, and these in turn have minimal connection to or involvement with

the worlds in which they are functioning.1 Disengagement and disburdenment

tend to go hand in hand in a world under the inXuence of modern 
engineering practice.




Engaging practices and products on the other hand tend to be burdensome.
Cultivating my vegetable garden is an engaging pursuit. It is
also hard work. It is a bit easier if I use a rake and a hoe, instead of, say,
my bare hands, which would be highly engaging but quite burdensome.
More and more garden tools would reduce my burden, but increase my
disengagement. The ultimate disburdenment might be to just shop for my
vegetables at the supermarket and be done with it. Somewhere there must
be a balance: how much disburdenment will still permit an engagement
that enriches life and elevates the spirit? The kind of engineering that contributes
to such a balance I call focal engineering.

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