9. Conclusion

This paper has suggested that technology has to be understood as an innate human faculty as well as the cultural phenomenon which we commonly see. Even creativity, though logically seen as unpredictable, may be an unconscious process pre­programmed into the brain and necessary to a creature which came to rely on behavioural adaptation rather than physical. This is a complex phenomenon, but a key characteristic appears to be the capacity to think in three dimensions, about materials and forces. This process is logical although it is not verbal or symbolic.

Engineering is little understood outside the members of the profession, and many English people confuse it with science. Certainly, it is not as effectively popularised as science. Perhaps the non-verbal thinking which has been described above explains why engineers are notoriously bad communicators. It is just not possible to represent the Spitfire, the Volkswagen Beetle, or the Forth rail bridge adequately in words. Yet I would maintain that these classics, and also their lesser brethren like clothes props, door bolts or sash windows, are as logical as any proposition in Aristotelian or Boolean form. One could go further, and say that some of the concepts in engineering are as beautiful and original as great poems or pictures. This is seldom recognised in Britain, and this is a sad misperception. For our culture has not made technology a part of itself.

The history of technology is more visual and tactile than most other sorts of history and you cannot do it without getting your hands dirty, getting a feel for things. Yet if the thinking of the engineer is as creative as literature or art, we should be asking ourselves why technology has not entered our general culture -why the average person knows the names of Beethoven, Van Gogh and Shakespeare, but not Newcomen, Parsons or Maudslay. Engineering could be one of the great liberal educations. For me, trained as I was in history and languages, finding out how Watt's engine worked, and how Robert Stephenson thought out the Britannia Bridge, was like coming upon the treasures of Aladdin's Cave. Engineering is too good for engineers - too few of them appreciate the richness of their subject.

If we see engineering as a natural function, not just an activity created by the needs of our own particular society, then we have an opportunity to explore its links with our biological origins and with other cultures. This point of view may also help us to build a better chain of learning for children, a gentler transition from their first toys to more mature mathematical and theoretical competence.

I have talked a great deal about evolution, but I think we must always remember that it is humanity's thought, not technology itself, which evolves. Evolution is blind: technology is mind - but my argument also implies that it may be the non­verbal subconscious mind. How can we give that non-verbal quality a fair chance in our educational system that is so dominated by written examinations? How can we give the true value to three dimensional creative thought in an educational and economic system that chiefly rewards symbol users? In biological terms it is tempting to think of the accountants and other symbol users in industry as having moved up the food chain like carnivores, leaving the engineers - creators - as herbivores to be lived off.

Here is our human mind which perceives and responds to the environment - so we have the externalists' context; and it designs things creatively - so we have the internalists' content. But most important, our heritage from the Prehistoric Engineer is creative invention which cannot be predicted, so that the future is free and undetermined. Perhaps Artificial Intelligence will one day replicate these functions, but until that possibility becomes more than philosophical speculation, it is the human mind's creativity that stands between us and extinction.