Miklós Havass


The Knowledge Engineer


Summary. The globalization process leads to the birth of the information society. According to the author a layer of persons engaged in the management of information, so-called "knowledge engineers" will develop in the information society. This layer will also include the engineers of the present day and its importance will be upgraded substantially. The training of engineers will undergo fundamental changes as a result of the above-mentioned process and information infrastructure making its way into the system of tools of education. It is necessary to anticipate future changes in developing the engineer training institutions of the present.




  1. The main topic of this paper to study the impact of globalization on the engineering education and practice. However, we will start the analysis one layer "higher" by inspecting how the role of engineers will change in the information society. This is necessary, because globalization is only the first strong sign of the society of the future: the information society. Globalization is rooted in the potential for fast processing of large volumes of financial, business and cultural data, transfer of the same via telecommunications - in other words worldwide communication - as well as the fast and relatively inexpensive movement of persons and goods. Thus, it is purposeful to expand the topic of the survey, if we are truly interested in near-future impacts, and try to find the joint impacts of this widened domain. The question is what impact will the information society have on engineers?
  2. In order to have a look at the most general change of the existence of engineers let’s define the meaning of the word engineer. The word comes from the Old-French engine originating from the Latin word ingenium having the meaning of "natural ability, skill, talent". The engineer is the person having knowledge about nature as well as skills for successfully maneuvering and managing himself and the "world-segment" under his influence.
  3. The Hungarian language offers further details on activities of the engineer. The Hungarian word engineer (mérnök) also expresses that the engineer is a person measuring, that is quantifying phenomena, forming models of the existing world with the help of such quantified information, make projections and influence the progress of the world by employing the tools at his disposal. (It has to be mentioned that in Hungary - from a historical point of view - the word engineer developed by reference to the work of the "land surveyor" engineer.) The special branches of engineering were created depending on which "part" of the world was measured, modeled or quantified by the engineer: chemical-, civil-, hydraulic-, marine-, mechanical-, statical engineer.

    In respect of the "scope of knowledge" represented engineers differ from one another, but their methods, way of thinking and modeling abilities are similar in spite of that engineers acquire their knowledge at different faculties in today’s modern universities.

  4. The information society - based on digitalization, in other words "reception", processing and transferring the world’s measurable quantities in an identical manner - will be the society of knowledge relying on measurable information, where the inter-connection and sub- or super-ordination of persons, social strata and countries will be determined by their relation with information. Information about the world (theoretically all information), as well as the vast majority of (algorithmic) processes making possible their arrangement and "compilation" will be (theoretically) available for anyone on the "information web". The question is how to find the necessary information and methods for their processing, and - this being the real issue of excellence - how will we able to link those in a new and unusual manner.

In this respect each member of industrial, business, legal and scientific societies, as well as providers of servicer will become "engineers", what is more "knowledge engineers", whose work will consist in large part from organizing, processing, complementing, and transferring such information. Thus, the engineer of the present day operating in various fields will become somewhat like a universal "knowledge engineer" but the most outstanding players will show increasing differentiation, because they will require the ability to find much more diverse special "knowledge".

In this sense the broad notion of "knowledge engineer" will come into existence to become a layer of key importance, because

It has to be recognized that the "knowledge engineer" of the future is not simply the child of today’s engineer and IT specialist. Many economists, medics, service providers and producers will also be part of the process. Even the vast majority of artists. In other words everyone engaged in intellectual activities, that is working with "knowledge".

  1. A whole range of issues are raised by the (higher) education of new engineer types. It will surely require long discussions and a long period of time to think these over, and to deduct and adapt consequences of the same in the training of engineers. The notions have not yet been formulated, the information society is under development and the conservative attitude of higher education also doesn’t facilitate the process. At the same time we should not forget that globalization coincides with the increasing mobility of students and teachers (we will refer to this hereunder). This also means that parts of the world, where concrete experiments are started sooner and in a more dynamic form have a better chance for educating the "global elite" or having global competence centers established.
  2. In the presentation I would like to list some key points of expected changes and consequences of the same.

    First of all the education of "knowledge engineers" will be mass education. Countless persons standing on the continuous spectrum of knowledge and skills will want to use it, because the available knowledge will lead directly to their happiness and work opportunities. At the university they will have to deal with the joint but altering speed and depth training of high numbers of youth at different levels of progress. This will require new type of teachers, teaching tools, and curricula. Tele-learning methods - based on individual learning - are also expected to spread.

    Higher education is the ticket to a job the relation of teacher-student (the word-by-word translation of the latter Hungarian word would be "listener" that is the one who listens and accepts knowledge passively) transforms into supplier-client relation. The student intends to buy competitive knowledge (wherever that can be found at the highest quality for the most favorable price).

    The hallmark of knowledge will be its usefulness, thus learning can be viewed as an investment one has to pay for and will pay for. (This issue will become a question of calculation.) Social-level learning will not be financeable without the above-mentioned social contribution. At the same time it will be the role of the state to ensure financial constructions (loans, scholarships, social funding, aimed support) which can make education available for wide strata of society (the poor, future workers of low-paid jobs, etc.) and which can facilitate the generation of sizable funds for excellence-training.

    The vast majority of jobs - even if created under a national framework and becoming work performed at home by making use of the opportunities of teleworking - will be connected to transnational companies. This means that the University should provide preparation for international cooperation in a world where the majority of products and services are assembled in team work from ready-made knowledge, component, and procedure "capsules". It is thus necessary to know the customs of team work, cooperation, use of standards, and quality guaranteed in itself not to mention international communication and efficiency being present everywhere in activities.

    One has to prepare for Humboldt’s closed science theory to dissolve. Social magnitude scientific and technological research - supported with IT tools - produce results on the large-scale as well as creating new and even newer areas of science. For this reason - and because the lexical knowledge achieved will be accessible on the information network - it will be necessary to develop the ability of higher education that makes man capable of understanding the "whole" and accepting continuous change.

    The relation of higher education - and work - is becoming closer with the tools of information technology. Their use requires not only technical skills, but a new way of thinking and new planning techniques. Acquisition of the "new literacy" will be a basic requirement at the new university.

    In addition to the above there will be changes that are administered in the structure of the university because information technology elbow out and replace a whole line of earlier techniques and methods.

    In the next point we will take a look at some of these expectable changes.

  3. First of all the role of the university as a library containing up-to-date knowledge will undergo a change. Rapidly changing dynamic knowledge will not be locked away in paper-based libraries or at a central place (this is quite rare), but it will be accessible from the network available everywhere. It will not be necessary to visit the university physically to access such knowledge.
  4. The task of the teacher will become highly polarized: the two main poles will be the producer of study materials and the facilitator making possible studying in person. Of course it need not to be mentioned that these (especially the former one) do not require meeting the student at any concrete geographical location. Similarly to how present-day film stars and media starts are becoming increasingly independent from the film company and TV station the "teacher star" of the future (excellent lecturers) will become independent from university or country and become a commodity of high quality, who appear at times here and at times there in person at conferences (having high attendance) or digital media forms.

    The technology of virtual reality, as a highly effective modeling tool will take over the role of workshop. The exhausting creation of an experimental environment and the tiresome work of making a freehand drawing can be replaced by diverse parameter experiments made with highly effective models and enable better "reception" of overall processes.

    The allocation of the same planning - production - distribution process on the network will result the establishment of international research collectives without requiring a single physical location. In such a sense socialization, the field of "joint" work will also become virtual.

    Of course filling this complex framework with content (and filling it over and over again) and its organization requires much care. This role will be played by the university - being a totally new institute in outward appearance, role and functions.

    Communication on information networks decreases the importance of time and space but people will continue to reside at geographical locations (possibly in nation-state or other social organization). Thus, it is expected that the hierarchy of university will be created. There will be some educating the leading global intelligentsia. There will be ones managing regions, and there will be many training average "knowledge engineers". The positioning and hierarchy of the universities not yet existing will also be significantly dependent on when each country and university will recognize the start and direction of changes, and how they will adapt to those.

  5. Finally, let me present to you possibly the most important thought of the study. The engineers of the present day makes preparations under the framework of nation-states also acquiring knowledge on how they can become a useful citizen of their nation - loyal to the values of the same.

In a global world, the world of huge transnational companies and financial institutions over-bridging countries, in the world of global mobility universities must create a new ethos and generate a new sense of responsibility, which points beyond nation-states.

The fate of the entire planet will be in the hands of the new knowledge engineers. However, universal limits and behavior standard are not (yet) available. It still depends on them how we atomic nuclear energy, how we "consume" our environment, whether or not we leave the majority of the planet’s population in poverty, and how we manipulate our human existence (genetic surgery, digital media. In order for the global world to take its role as step in the direction of progress in human history the "knowledge engineer" of the new age must learn global responsibility and values, and the methods for acquiring the same.