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How engineers shape the future: Navigating uncertainty to anticipate and take charge of change

Industry Comment – Stewart Bird (Principal, Innovation, Aurecon)

We are at a point in time where we are more connected than ever before. This interconnectivity has led to a global society that is highly complex and increasingly unpredictable. Changes in one part of the world can now have significant impacts all across the globe.

Changes in the climate have an impact on societal values, which impacts on consumption patterns, which in turn has an impact on how things are produced, which then impacts on how supply chains are organised and the business models organisations within it require, which ultimately changes the physical assets clients require and how they are designed.

Engineers are often thought to focus on the physical object being designed (the nuts and bolts), but increasingly we are shifting our focus to understand the systems that those physical asset support and how designing physical assets differently (or indeed designing different physical assets all together) can have a broader impact on the systems it interacts with.

Futures is a critical area we employ to better understand changing systems, whether they be political, economic, environmental, societal or technological.

Drawing on the fields of Futures Studies and Strategic Foresight, Aurecon’s Futures team looks at how to interpret, analyse and respond to signals of change, and how to systematically and methodically explore what we can do now to shape our own futures.

Our exploration focuses on creating the future technical skills we apply to our delivery, the impact, resilience and connection of our work to the environment, and the ongoing integration of intelligence into the assets we design, deliver and support over their entire lifecycle.

As the saying goes, “the best way to predict the future is to create it” and engineers are actively shaping the future, today.