6. The Critical Engineer expands “machine” to describe interrelationships encompassing devices, bodies, agents, forces and networks.
This tenent is connected to several others in the manifesto (namely 9 and 4) but most directly articulates the underlying idea that and single engineering work does not exist in a vacuum. There are always social, political, emotional, humanitarian, economic, and other conversations which influence and can be influenced by an engineer’s creation. This core idea, like many of the others, applies to any sort of manufactured culture (movies, books, toys, software, art…). A critical engineer will always recognize and strive to examine the nuanced forces that could be affected by a “machine,” to look beyond the inherent workings of any singular device at the broader ramifications of it within our culture. An example, which is always at the forefront of my mind, is virtual reality headsets. Often they are manufactured because they’re cool; students want to work at Oculus because the tech is new and interesting, the job pays well, but the creation of virtual worlds is endlessly important in how society evolves. If creators aren’t careful with the content, or if engineers aren’t considerate of the accessibility, virtual reality works can be a source of contention and division in society. Obviously there will always be upsides and downsides, societal speaking, to any “machine” but makers should be aware of them.