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Listening to the Quiet Voices: Unlocking the Heart of Engineering Grand Challenges

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Author(s): George D Catalano

Journal: International Journal of Engineering, Social Justice, and Peace
ISSN 1927-9434

Volume: 1;
Issue: 2;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: contemplative pedagogy | Grand Challenges | listening | mindfulness

ABSTRACT
According to the National Academy of Engineering, the list for the Grand Challenges for Engineering are: (1) Make solar energy economical; (2) Provide energy from fusion; (3) Develop carbon sequestration methods; (4) Manage the nitrogen cycle; (5) Provide access to clean water; (6) Restore and improve urban infrastructure; (7) Advance health informatics; (8) Engineer better medicines; (9) Reverse-engineer the brain; (10) Prevent nuclear terror; (11) Secure cyberspace; (12) Enhance virtual reality; (13) Advance personalized learning; and (14) Engineer the tools of scientific discovery. Surely, it may be difficult to find many who would find any reason to disagree with the identification of any of these topics for both the present and future engineers. Rather than object to what is included, I would like to raise the issue of what has been neglected in this list and far too often in engineering—listening to the quiet voices that speak from within each of us from our heart. I am suggesting the act of listening as one additional entry for this most important list.In my view, one set of skills that our profession does not encourage very well is stopping and listening—stopping and listening to each other, stopping and listening to life around us, or stopping and listening even to ourselves. This is a skill that, given the pace of our modern society, technological advances and our cultural conditioning, must be cultivated for it likely will simply either never develop or quickly wither away. The question at hand then becomes how does one cultivate the ability to stop and to listen? The present work offers one such path though clearly there are countless others.
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