In This Issue
The Bridge: 50th Anniversary Issue
January 7, 2021 Volume 50 Issue S
This special issue celebrates the 50th year of publication of the NAE’s flagship quarterly with 50 essays looking forward to the next 50 years of innovation in engineering. How will engineering contribute in areas as diverse as space travel, fashion, lasers, solar energy, peace, vaccine development, and equity? The diverse authors and topics give readers much to think about!
Articles In This Issue
  • Thursday, January 7, 2021
    AuthorRonald Latanision and Cameron Fletcher

    We are delighted to celebrate the 50th year of publication of the NAE’s flagship quarterly with this special issue featuring 50 essays looking forward to the next 50 years of innovation in engineering.

    From its early days as a 4-page member newsletter, The Bridge has evolved to a thematic ...

  • Thursday, January 7, 2021
    AuthorAsad M. Madni and Ming Hsieh

    At a lunch table during the 2019 NAE annual meeting in Washington, we joined Editor in Chief Ron Latanision, Managing Editor Cameron Fletcher, and NAE Director of Programs Guru Madhavan in a conversation about the upcoming 50th anniversary of the publication of The Bridge. They were considering a ...

  • Monday, January 11, 2021
    AuthorJohn L. Anderson

    In theory there is no difference between theory
    and practice, while in practice there is.

    The intention to “do good” is not always realized in the engineering of artifacts, processes, and systems. Innovations have led to many improvements in health, security, and quality of life, ...

  • Monday, January 11, 2021
    AuthorSheila Jasanoff


    Chemistry, physics, and biology took turns shaping the frontiers of industrial development from the mid-19th century onward, but this century’s future belongs squarely to engineering.

    This is an era of unprecedented convergence across multiple fields, propelled by breakthroughs in ...

  • Monday, January 18, 2021
    AuthorJoseph G. Allen and John D. Macomber

    Fifty years seems a very long time in the future for most industries. Not so in buildings and real estate; built structures routinely last decades if not hundreds of years, as long as they are economically competitive. Any discussion of the 50-year future has to consider existing stock as well as ...

  • Wednesday, January 6, 2021
    AuthorNorman R. Augustine

    Mark Twain is reputed to have said that history does not repeat itself but it often rhymes. Such is likely to be the relationship of commercial airline travel and commercial spaceline travel.

    Advances in space travel are also likely to be a microcosm of whatever advances occur in engineering as an ...

  • Monday, February 15, 2021
    AuthorSally M. Benson

    In the grips of a global pandemic that knocked everyone off their feet, what can be learned about responding to the growing threat of climate change?

    Parallels between the Covid-19 Pandemic and Climate Change

    Scientific experts had been warning that another global pandemic was a virtual certainty ...

  • Monday, March 8, 2021
    AuthorJudy Brewer and Jeffrey M. Jaffe

    The World Wide Web has evolved into a complex mechanism for building dynamic applications that are used all over the globe for commerce, education, social networking, entertainment, and information sharing. Innovations to create the roadmap for future functions—immersive environments, ...

  • Monday, March 1, 2021
    AuthorRodney A. Brooks

    In the proposal for the 1956 Dartmouth summer workshop on artificial intelligence (AI)—the first recorded use of the words artificial intelligence—the authors made clear in the second sentence that they believed machines could simulate any aspect of human intelligence. That remains the ...

  • Monday, February 8, 2021
    AuthorRobert A. Brown and Kenneth Lutchen

    The world and engineering were simpler half a century ago when The Bridge published its first edition, just a few years after the founding of the National Academy of Engineering. The world was less globalized, less connected; only a few countries competed for global economic preeminence. All this ...

  • Monday, January 11, 2021
    AuthorTom H. Byers and Tina L. Seelig

    Now more than ever it is critically important for engineering graduates to be prepared to evaluate the consequences of the technologies they invent and scale.

    In the past the impacts of new technologies—from nuclear power to genetic engineering—emerged over decades, and government ...

  • Monday, January 18, 2021
    AuthorArup K. Chakraborty and Bernhardt L. Trout

    Human history is inextricably linked with infectious diseases. Smallpox and plague pandemics and epidemics have afflicted humans since antiquity. As recently as the 19th century, roughly one in 100 people living in New York City died of tuberculosis.

    To an inhabitant of the 19th century, the early ...

  • Monday, February 8, 2021
    AuthorLance R. Collins

    In fall 2017 ecommerce and cloud computing giant Amazon announced that it was going to build a second US headquarters and cities could compete for the 50,000 jobs that would accompany “HQ2.” The company received nearly 240 proposals.

    While most leaned heavily on tax incentives, ...

  • Monday, March 8, 2021
    AuthorCarolina Cruz-Neira

    Virtual reality (VR) can be defined as the spectrum of technologies that enable a computer-mediated reality, ranging from an enhanced real world (augmented reality) to completely digital worlds. Over the coming decades VR will capitalize on the convergence of 21st century technologies and ...

  • Monday, February 1, 2021
    AuthorNicholas M. Donofrio

    I have spent over 50 years as an engineer, technologist, and business leader committed to innovation. Innovation has been, is, and always will be the leading edge of economic, social, educational, and governmental success.

    But we’re holding innovation back. Not because, as conventional ...

  • Monday, January 4, 2021
    AuthorRebecca Earley

    During the covid-19 pandemic in spring 2020, I considered what fashion might look like from the consumer’s perspective in 5 years.[1] The “new normal” is changing the way people see the world, and increasing understanding of the role of fashion and clothing in the connected, ...

  • Monday, March 8, 2021
    AuthorJ. Gary Eden

    This year marked the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the laser. Few optical or electronic devices have more significantly and directly impacted the quality of life worldwide and, not surprisingly, the NAE designated the laser as one of the 20 foremost engineering achievements of the 20th ...

  • Monday, February 15, 2021
    AuthorKerry A. Emanuel

    I am a climate scientist highly motivated to find the best and fastest route to decarbonizing energy. As with many of my colleagues, I have felt an obligation to engage directly with the public on the issue of anthropogenic climate change. Collectively, we have become adept at presenting the ...

  • Monday, January 25, 2021
    AuthorMaryann P. Feldman and Paige A. Clayton

    The past 50 years have arguably been defined by economics and the neoliberal agenda, marked by the rise of economic reasoning, with its emphasis on a free market ideology (Applebaum 2019). The focus on markets and a diminished role of government have failed to deliver on the promise of widespread ...

  • Monday, January 4, 2021
    AuthorSamuel C. Florman

    We are approaching the end of 2020, 75 years removed from a horrific world war that ended with the introduction of nuclear weapons, only to find ourselves in the grip of a fearsome pandemic and shocked by near revolutionary crises of racial conflict. At the same time, as engineers, it is our ...

  • Monday, January 25, 2021
    AuthorRichard N. Foster

    As the world reels from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, growing climate instabilities (including the worst forest fires in California’s and Colorado’s history, as well as unusually numerous hurricanes), and increasing distrust among the world’s nations, questions about ...

  • Monday, February 22, 2021
    AuthorSara J. Gamble

    Quantum computing emerged as a research area in the late 20th century yet has only recently experienced a dramatic rise in press coverage and corresponding popularity. While some of this is inevitably rooted more in hype than science, a look into the future suggests that quantum computers do, in ...

  • Monday, February 22, 2021
    AuthorJuan E. Gilbert

    The 2000 presidential election forever changed voting in the United States. In that election Florida used a paper ballot that left voters uncertain about their selections after they cast their ballot. Analysis of the paper ballots showed that the voters were right to be uncertain. The entire nation ...

  • Monday, January 18, 2021
    AuthorAnita Goel

    The consciousness with which science is pursued plays a critical role in shaping scientific worldviews, the fundamental questions asked, and the technologies created and their ultimate impacts on society.

    My childhood exposure, while growing up in the rural landscapes of -Mississippi, to ...

  • Monday, February 1, 2021
    AuthorLatonia M. Harris

    What might the US engineering community look like in 50 years? As an African American woman I belong to an underrepresented group in this community. My story may provide some clues on how to ensure a robust engineering pipeline.

    Born in Selma and raised in Detroit, I come from a working-class ...

  • Monday, February 8, 2021
    AuthorLinda A. Hill

    Engineering education should be reimagined to create a new generation of technical leaders prepared to dream, invent, and steward the future.

    What Do I Mean by a Technical Leader?

    I mean a leader like Ed Catmull, cofounder of Pixar, who with his colleagues leveraged the intersection of ...

  • Thursday, December 24, 2020
    AuthorJoseph B. Hughes and Philip Breedlove

    Creating a more peaceful world is an aspiration shared by generations. Converting aspiration to achievement has been elusive. Creating peace is a wicked problem with no universally shared definition of success.

    Peace engineering focuses on incremental, realistic, and compounding progress toward ...

  • Monday, February 15, 2021
    AuthorJenna R. Jambeck

    In 1970 just over 30 million metric tons of plastics were produced globally for use; now that number stands at 359 million metric tons (Geyer et al. 2017[1]; PlasticsEurope 2019). As of 2017, a cumulative 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics had been produced.

    Plastics are unquestionably useful. ...

  • Monday, January 18, 2021
    AuthorIk-Kyung Jang, Monica S. Jang, and Ronald M. Latanision

    Over 4 million people are admitted to hospitals annually with a diagnosis of acute coronary syndrome (ACS), which includes unstable angina and acute heart attack. The three most common underlying mechanisms for ACS are plaque rupture (40–60 percent), plaque erosion (40–60 percent), and ...

  • Thursday, December 24, 2020
    AuthorKimberly L. Jones

    Access to safe and reliable drinking water is a basic human right, yet over 2.2 billion people do not have it (WHO/UNICEF 2017). A similar number live in countries experiencing water stress, which is expected to be exacerbated by an increase in global water demand—20–30 percent by ...

  • Monday, March 1, 2021
    AuthorAchuta Kadambi and Asad M. Madni

    Artificial intelligence (AI) is more than 2000 years in the making, dating back to the ancient Greeks. To protect his island from pirates, it is said that the first king of Crete, Minos, received an unusual gift from Hephaestus, the Greek god of invention and blacksmithing: a bronze robot known as ...

  • Monday, February 22, 2021
    AuthorKen Krechmer

    Predicting the future using technical standards seems counterintuitive, but examining their history indicates otherwise. Six successions of technical references/standards—symbols, measurements, designs, similarity, compatibility, and adaptability (figure 1)—are based on general set ...

  • Thursday, December 24, 2020
    AuthorSarah R. Kurtz

    In 1970 silicon solar cells were used for powering satellites but were too expensive for terrestrial applications. Now they are the fastest-growing source of bulk electricity in many locations, accounting for an impressive 43 percent of worldwide net electricity-generating capacity expansion in ...

  • Thursday, December 24, 2020
    AuthorRush LaSelle

    To appreciate the future impact of additive manufacturing not only on industry but on economies and their constituents, it is important to have some perspective on the scope of manufacturing, including the impacts and disruption of digital technologies over the past decade.

    Economic Scope of ...

  • Monday, February 22, 2021
    AuthorRobert W. Lucky

    There is a quotation about predicting the future attributed to Alan Kay, a pioneer in computer science. “The best way to predict the future,” he said, “is to invent it.”

    Of course, we engineers do often invent the future, but sometimes not the futures that we had intended. ...

  • Monday, January 11, 2021
    AuthorDaniel Metlay

    In 1973 the German philosopher Hans Jonas posed the central ethical test for modern technological society. He observed that previously the “good and evil about which action had to care lay close to the act, either in the praxis itself or in its immediate reach,” whereas a new ...

  • Monday, February 22, 2021
    AuthorJoel N. Myers

    In The Signal and the Noise, the noted statistical analyst Nate Silver (2012) examined forecasts in many categories and found that most demonstrate little or no skill and have made little or no progress in accuracy over the decades. The lone exception he found was weather forecasting. Before ...

  • Monday, March 1, 2021
    AuthorShrikanth S.Narayanan and Asad M. Madni

    As engineering strives to better people’s lives, human-centered technologies—enabled by converging engineering advances in sensing, computing, machine learning, data communication—will draw on machine intelligence[1] (MI) to help understand, support, and enhance the human ...

  • Monday, January 25, 2021
    AuthorTim O’Reilly

    “A victory small enough to be organized is too small to be decisive,” wrote Eliot Janeway (1951, p. 16) in his history of the mobilization of American industry during World War II. A great victory required an upwelling of energy from all parts of society. That energy could not be ...

  • Monday, March 1, 2021
    AuthorLisa A. Parks

    As a media scholar interested in technology’s relationship to society, I think about the ethical challenges brought about by computing and artificial intelligence (AI) tools in shaping global media culture. Three fundamental societal challenges have emerged from the use of AI.

    Technological ...

  • Monday, February 1, 2021
    AuthorKristala L.J. Prather

    Every new year prompts past reflections and new expectations, but some feel more significant than others. As the year 2000 arrived, the world ­anxiously waited to see whether a seamless conversion of global data systems from two- to four-digit representation would avert a “Y2K” ...

  • Monday, February 1, 2021
    AuthorAinissa Ramirez

    When thinking about how technologies will impact life decades from now, the past holds many lessons and warnings. I have come to this realization after spending several years examining old inventions for my book The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another (Ramirez 2020).


  • Wednesday, December 23, 2020
    AuthorJenny E. Sabin

    According to the World Green Building Council (WGBC 2017), building and construction account for 39 percent of annual global carbon emissions. The heating, lighting, and cooling of buildings accounts for 28 percent of this total and the remaining 11 percent comes from what is known as embodied ...

  • Wednesday, December 23, 2020
    AuthorRebecca Saive

    It would be absurd today if anyone attempted to launch a product using chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Yet less than 50 years ago, the use of CFCs was entrenched in industry standards for numerous products, such as aerosols and refrigerants. With the 1987 Montreal Protocol, 197 countries agreed to ...

  • Monday, February 15, 2021
    AuthorJosé G. Santiesteban and Thomas F. Degnan Jr.

    Transportation is a large and diverse sector that encompasses road (passenger and freight vehicles), aviation, marine, and rail transport. In 2018 this sector accounted for nearly a quarter of global anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions,[1] so efforts to decarbonize it are critical to achieving ...

  • Wednesday, December 23, 2020
    AuthorGwynne E. Shotwell and Lars Blackmore

    Space travel is the next necessary step in human evolution. Ensuring that humans can live on multiple planets and be out among the stars, exploring the universe, is both key to human survival and a magnificent source of inspiration.

    But current single-use rockets make getting to orbit ...

  • Tuesday, December 22, 2020
    AuthorSusan B. Sinnott and Zi-Kui Liu

    The prehistory and protohistory of humanity are divided into three ages in terms of materials: the Stone Age (~3.4 million years, until 8700–2000 BC), based on raw materials from nature; the Bronze Age (3500–300 BC), based on human-made copper (alloyed with 12 wt% tin); and the Iron Age ...

  • Monday, March 8, 2021
    AuthorMichael A. Steinwand and Pamela C. Ronald

    By 2050, the global population is predicted to reach 9.7 billion. If consumption practices do not change and food continues to be wasted at alarming rates, farmers around the world will need to increase production 25–100 percent to meet the associated increase in food demand (Hunter et al. ...

  • Monday, January 11, 2021
    AuthorKentaro Toyama

    About 5 years ago the number of mobile phone accounts in the world exceeded the total human population (ITU 2019). Nomadic pastoralists in East Africa and tribal communities in South Asia make fluent use of cellphones, even where life is otherwise preindustrial, even preagrarian. As measured by the ...

  • Monday, January 18, 2021
    AuthorSihong Wang

    Over the past few decades information technology (IT) has suffused every corner of society and reshaped the way people live, communicate, work, and entertain themselves. The next 50 years are likely to yield another generational change in electronics, and corresponding changes in people’s ...

  • Tuesday, December 22, 2020
    AuthorDavid M. Warsinger

    In stark contrast to progress on almost all the UN Sustainable Development Goals, clean water supply and safety issues are worsening globally, threatened by groundwater depletion, shrinking glacial melt, major rivers running dry, increasing salinity of soils and groundwater, more dangerous and ...

  • Monday, March 8, 2021
    AuthorJosephine Wolff

    Fifty years feels almost unimaginably long in internet time. Fifty years ago, the ARPANET was barely a year old; Ray Tomlinson had not yet sent the first email, Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn had not yet published their ­seminal paper on the protocol that would become TCP/IP, Tim Berners-Lee had ...