Water, Sewage & Effluent May June 2019 - Page 38

The problem with advancement But even with all these amazing advancements in technology, the problem is that, no matter how advanced we are, we still cannot print water and energy; something very unlikely to happen in the future. There will be some serious challenges such as what do we do with the surplus of qualified people whose work has been taken over by intelligent machines? How will a road be designed and constructed by a computer and the same for large infrastructure such as dams and other infrastructure, and how will all this affect the institutional situation of each country and cross-border situation? Where will the engineer, the contractor, the artisan, the labourer and manufacturer fit in? The civil engineer of today is responsible for very important 36 4IR is the future and is a new industrial and technical revolution. I only got my first computer on my desk a month before I retired, which is about 28 years ago. Today, no engineer is without a desktop computer, a laptop and a smart phone and they can work anywhere – in a restaurant and even on the beach. Drawings are all 3D and, you can ‘walk through’ the building or the civil services design you are working on in a simulated environment. Design programs can do all the calculations and adjust according to quantities and the specifications. The question is, will it be able to do even more? We often hear the expressions, ‘what you put in is what you get out’, and ‘rubbish in, rubbish out’ – which both have to do with work ethic and says a lot about the efforts of the ‘doer’. Now there’s talk of ‘artificial intelligence’ – intelligence that takes over from the human being and can do a better job and take over your work? The office of the future will be dramatically more advanced in terms of ‘automatic design’ but the construction will also be dramatically advanced and artificially intelligently driven. If I can be so bold as to take a look into the future, I see smart buildings and related infrastructure manufactured off site and assembled on site, or even manufactured by machines and computers completely on site. This is already happening with bridges and other civil infrastructure, with ‘upfront engineering’ – all in a bid to do things better, faster and more economically. There are already 3D printed houses constructed on site, the future of these houses will just be more advanced and complete with services. 4IR is growing at an exponential rate. infrastructure and life-sustaining commodities such as water. The problem is how will we be able to ‘generate’ water and provide it to an ever-growing population? Water is already a worldwide problem and in some countries the work of the engineer has already been taken over by people who are not engineers. Water and sanitation go hand-in- hand, and you can have the most advanced technology for the design and construction of the treatment plant, but if it is not operated by competent technicians and maintained by skilled and competent artisans and technologists then it will end in disaster and catastrophe. Not to mention that if you don’t have water to treat in the first place, then you are already in trouble. 4IR promises to be an ‘industrial revolution’, but it seems it will also need to revolutionise many other things that go with it, such as: Water Sewage & Effluent May/June 2019 • Institutional bodies and frameworks • Standards for design • Standards for construction • Standards for education and training • Standards for development • Trade • Compatibility • Transport • Information sharing • Health and safety In my opinion, top of the list should be ‘green development’ and reusability. Electronic engineering will play a key role in the revolution, and all the wonderful new products coming from this wonderful industrial revolution will also need and depend on electrical energy with no load shedding! So, while it seems that the role and profile of the water engineer will change, the expertise and skills-set obtained, as well as the human element and interaction will still be required in the future.  www.waterafrica.co.za