Koichi Hori

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Difference between Science and Engineering

(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 artificial intelligence.
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 committees, 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 human happiness.

P.S. Please watch UNESCO's video titled `Do you know AI or AI knows you better? Thinking Ethics of AI', in which I appear and talk some related topics.

© 2019 Koichi Hori

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