(Diary of an Old AI Researcher who is still Programming)
18 February 2019
What do you think is the difference between science and engineering?
You may have heard that science studies basic theories and engineering applies the
theories to practical problems. This is partially correct but is not totally correct.
I would like to say the difference between science and engineering lies in the
ultimate goal of the disciplines.
In science, the ultimate goal is to find and explain the truths.
On the other hand, in engineering, the ultimate goal is to make humans happy.
Scientists are interested in the truths, but generally are not interested in
human happiness at first.
Engineers are interested in human happiness, but generally are not interested in the
truths at first.
For example, engineers sometimes invent devices without fully knowing the basic
principles to enable the function of the device. Then, after the invention, scientists
and engineers try to reveal the principles in collaboration.
This is just now happening in the studies of deep neural networks in the field of
Since the ultimate goal of engineering is human happiness (including wider range
of ecological harmony of not just human beings), engineering and ethics have
always had close relation. Recently, this relation has become deeper, because
such technologies as artificial intelligence or biotechnology pose deep questions on
what human beings are and what human beings should be.
No specialist in any discipline has any definite answer to the questions, yet.
Though several domestic and international committees are discussing the
problem of artificial intelligence and human society and I am members of some of those
I think that
continuous dialogues among the specialists in many domains and the non-specialist
citizens are required to control the direction of engineering studies toward possible