This is part of a series of posts about my thoughts and my experiences through the KOSEN-Joint Polytechnic startup program.

“The engineer is a social doctor. “

Dr Isao Taniguchi, President of the National Institute of Technology (KOSEN)

One theme that shines very strongly about the KOSEN engineering education program was about using technology to solve problems of the society. This is probably something that I believe I probably know it, but no one has ever put is so concisely and aptly until Dr Isao Taniguchi – with only six words.

I love the way he puts it. And it is true, the world has probably come to a stage where we are reaping what we have sown. The scientists and engineers that precedes us has brought us convenience such as refrigeration, automation, medicine and the Internet. Such advances are at a price if we do not use them responsibly, from the food and water shortage to global warming.

And I guess technology will may hold the key to help us once again, like how advances in optic enabled billions of people with myopia see better.

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One of the people the program organiser managed to invite to speak at the program was Dr Ken Endo:

In his talk, he shared with us that his dream was that physically disabled people are no longer labelled as disabled. In fact, the prosthetic engineer viewed that technology could in fact gave them superhuman strength to do things that are limited by the current human design.

This led him to start a blade runners’ blade “library” where people could rent out a blade to try and run with it for themselves for a token fee. Such blades were otherwise often expensive and the common people who probably struggled looking for a suitable prosthetic for themselves, were unable to afford one.

His recent project was to recontruct prosthetic for Hirotada Ototake, a Japanese born without arms and legs. (PS. the same condition as Nick Vujicic). You can view their journey in this documentary posted on Vimeo here.

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There’s a general lack of engineers in the world. The sensing that I get sometimes was that people felt that the work in engineering is too hard. For Singapore, engineers just don’t appear to pay as well as bankers and doctors.

I was just wondering, if you would just allow me to generalise and over-simplify things a bit: If we could tell people that engineers are doing a lot for the society and for the greater good, by telling them that we are social doctors, and of course, get the average engineer pay up on track by our contribution to the society, we might be able to attract more people into the field.