Digital has had biggest impact on humanity over past 100 years

Posted on 6 Dec 2017 by Jonny Williamson

The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering (QEPrize) has published its Create the Future 2017 report, an international survey into the attitudes towards engineering across 10 global markets.

Digital Tech Computer Computers IT – image courtesy of Depositphotos.
Our work and personal lives have been transformed by modern computers and digital technology – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

The research shows that Britons believe computers have had the biggest impact on humanity over the past 100 years. The internet came in a close second on the list, demonstrating how our work and personal lives have been transformed by modern computers and digital technology.

Both the modern computer and the internet have been credited to British inventors and pioneers – Alan Turing and winner of the inaugural QEPrize, Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

When Turing developed the modern computer during World War II, he couldn’t have imagined how computers would make into millions of offices and family homes across the country, revolutionising the way we work, gather information and can communicate directly with families, friends and even celebrities.

The British public also placed MRI scans, the silicon chip and nuclear power at the top of the list. Respondents were less enamoured by gaming consoles, television and social networks; seeing these inventions as less impactful on humanity.

The Create the Future 2017 report has been published to mark the 2017 QEPrize ceremony at Buckingham Palace, where the inventors of digital image sensors will be honoured.

This innovation has revolutionised everything from modern medicine to the way we consume and create media; from Skype, to selfies, to smartphones.

The report also found:

  • The perceived ‘skills gap’ is widening. Half of the markets surveyed – China, Japan, South Korea, the UK and US – felt there was a significant rise in the demand for skilled engineers.
  • Diversity is the driver of modern engineering. Three quarters of people feel there should be more female role models among industry leaders. More than (58%) said they would be inspired to pursue engineering if there were more people like them in industry to look up to.
  • A united approach is needed, with 80% believing governments, businesses and schools could offer more support to those interested in engineering professions.

As the world is experiencing a global shift, so too is engineering. Across the world, technology and engineering are converging and becoming ever more relevant to people’s daily lives.

There is a growing trust in engineering and engineers to lead the way in solving major global challenges and make the world a better place. However, despite a favourable attitude towards the profession, many still feel there are several barriers to a career in engineering.

These include the cost of education, the lack of visible, positive role models and few opportunities for young people. Engineers, educators and industry leaders must work together to ensure that those shaping the future are fully representative of the people who will use these new systems.