Engineering’s Grand Challenges

The National Academy of Engineering has suggested a list of the world’s greatest and most important engineering challenges, and it looks pretty comprehensive to me.   If we can solve all these problems we’ll really be taking life on earth up a few notches and kicking some globally sustainable problematic butt.   

I hope they add a priority and ROI component here.    My feeling is that reverse engineering of the brain will lead to general Artificial Intelligence and very rapid solutions to most if not all analytical problems.   Thus I’d like to see us devote, say, 1/100th of what we are poised to squander failing to solve CO2 problems to AI research.     But even if we forego that notion it’s questionable to spend in engineering as we currently do, especially on huge military technologies of questionable effectiveness.

 Here are the Grand Challenges for engineering as determined by a committe of the National Academy of Engineering:

  • Make solar energy economical
  • Provide energy from fusion
  • Develop carbon sequestration methods
  • Manage the nitrogen cycle
  • Provide access to clean water
  • Restore and improve urban infrastructure
  • Advance health informatics
  • Engineer better medicines
  • Reverse-engineer the brain
  • Prevent nuclear terror
  • Secure cyberspace
  • Enhance virtual reality
  • Advance personalized learning
  • Engineer the tools of scientific discovery