Help me save the world
July 3, 2007 6:43 PM Subscribe
I am a grad student in a computer engineering program who has recently become interested in sustainability. Please help me figure out how best to use my talents to have a positive impact on society.
posted by PercussivePaul to Science & Nature (9 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
My research background is in digital circuits - how to design microprocessors, for example. The sort of problems I'm working on all revolve around making circuits better - faster, lower power, able to do more stuff. The research is challenging and interesting. However, I don't think I have a passion for it. I will probably finish my Master's degree in the next 8-12 months -- what next? I can continue in a PhD, I could probably get a job in any of the big tech companies, or...something else entirely.
I now believe that sustainability - i.e. the long-term survival of our culture - is the only problem that really matters. At best my work on the technical side of things will marginally improve a few electronics products. But I'm starting to think there are enough gadgets out there as it is, most of which last only a few years anyway, and thus I am setting myself up to be part of the problem, not part of the solution. I see limited opportunities to make a big impact on my current path.
I've been volunteering with a local non-profit electronics recycler. I could probably devote a lot more time to working locally. But as a grad student with an engineering background and an insider's view of the electronics industry, and not much to tie me down at the moment, I think I am uniquely positioned to make a much larger positive impact on the world. I'm thinking along the lines of the one laptop per child project, solar power/LED lighting, improving transportation or power grids, reducing desktop PC power consumption, reducing the footprint of chip fabrication plants - things like this.
If I were to do a PhD, I feel like I would want to be in some kind of interdisciplinary program where I am less concerned about incremental contributions to the literature and more about solving the problems faced by a lot of people on a daily basis. What I'm looking for is advice on how to focus all these idealistic thoughts into some kind of a future plan, where I can make the biggest impact, who I should be talking to, and thoughts from anyone who may be, or have been, in a similar situation.