1 July 2007

With technology comes responsibility

By Greg Lehmann

Technologize responsibly is the fascinating, trademarked slogan of a local retail electronics store.

It could just as well work as the motto for automation professionals. 

Our responsibilities do not end when we have specified, procured, installed, calibrated, and successfully commissioned a new or upgraded process. We must make sure the operations and maintenance personnel and management fully understand the impact of the new technologies on their processes as well as themselves. 

Operator and technician training is an imperative part of our duties, should start as early as possible, and should continue throughout the process lifecycle. History has shown highly trained operations and maintenance personnel will succeed with greater ease than those who have not.

It is our responsibility to explain fully the new technologies until we are confident the benefits as well as possible drawbacks have been broached and discussed and the operations and maintenance personnel and management are comfortable.

As automation professionals, we realize the importance and our responsibility to properly train and educate users on the impacts of the new technologies for which we are accountable.

My rant

My concerns for the lack of responsibility with technology are more on the home front and in our personal lives than in our professional lives. 

I see the astounding numbers of cell phone-caused auto accidents, and I have to wonder how many could have been avoided if people were more responsible. We must be responsible in educating our children about the proper use of cell phones while driving. 

Text messaging is a prevalent and accepted form of communication amongst teens and between parents and teens. It is a huge distraction while driving. We have placed this technology in the hands of our children. Let's be responsible and continuously reiterate the proper time to use the phones, not only for phone calls but also more importantly for text messaging.

The internet is arguably the most empowering technology to come along in our lifetimes. Vendor catalogs no longer over-populate my bookshelves; I find 90% of the info I need on the net. 

Information net

It seems as though the information that finds its way to the net stays on the net and is available for a very long time, and this is the aspect of the internet technology that definitely needs responsibility. 

The kids of today have flocked to the online communities, such as MySpace.com and FaceBook.com, by the millions and seem to have no regrets or conscience about what they post. 

My wife and I have mandated that if our kids want there own MySpace page, we will have access to all their MySpace pages. The online pages/profiles are in the public domain, and it seems as though these kids believe the only other person able to see the page is the person for whom they are leaving the message. 

I have discovered bad language and inappropriate material posted on all of my kids' pages on more than one instance, and I have had them delete these postings. When I ask these kids what they think their grandmother would think if she surfed to their page and read the post, they always tell me she would know they did not write it and understand. 

I reason that if someone painted bad language on our garage door, and we left it there because people would know that we did not write it, that would not be OK. They are just now understanding it is property, be it intellectual, associated with them, and they should monitor it. 

Our generation has created and presented these new, exciting technologies to future generations, and it is our duty to properly explain and frequently underline the responsibilities that should accompany technology. 

About the Author

Greg Lehmann (greg.lehmann@wgint.com) is an ISA Certified Automation Professional (CAP) and a Senior Member of ISA. He is a control system specialist for Washington Group International at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal.