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Remembering to look ahead

Posted: 18 Apr 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:environment? green engineering? e-waste? entrepreneur? consumer waste?

I first became aware of how technology could amplify the effects of our best and worst ideas at age 10, when I tried to tow a kite with my bike. Undaunted by a windless day, I was racing furiously around the block with the kite high overhead. The only snag in my scheme was that I became so entranced at watching the kite that I forgot to look ahead. Ouch!

Darwin must have been looking the other way that day because the car I hit was parked. I came away from my first crash with only a broken arm and a bike that never really ran the same. While this incident did not deter me from several other near-fatal stunts in my youth, it made me understand that even the coolest idea can have a downside. That's why I was standing behind a blast shield a couple of years later when my half-pound home-built match head rocket rapidly rearranged itself into a cloud of high-velocity shrapnel.

Those lessons stuck withand even hauntme now as an adult and an EE. Much as I love the technologies I write about, I see many sad examples of their short-sighted application with no regard to the consequences. Whether it's the thousands of toxic waste sites spawned by our industrial age, the mountains of consumer waste we generate every day or our cars that pollute and may be warming our climate, I'm often convinced that we're blissfully cruising along at breakneck speed toward a big Ouch!

While irresponsible use of technology has certainly contributed to the deterioration of our home planet, I believe we can also use most of these same technologies to create products and businesses that are not only harmless, but actually improve the quality of life for our children's children. And if you think I'm some kind of granola-munching Luddite, I'd suggest you tell that to folks like Agere, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, STMicro, Sony and dozens of other high-tech firms that are finding out that adding environmental considerations to their business model can actually improve profits.

- Lee Goldberg

EE Times

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