The Soul of a New Machine

Hello from your new VPI blogger, Nick Imbriglia. Though I work with the engineering side of things, my goal is to ensure that anyone, technically inclined or not, can enjoy these entries and take something from them (I plan to write in English, not math equations).

A little background: I studied Electrical Engineering at school and have been with VPI for a few months now. I currently work on the Solar Lamps in India project, designing the lamps and solar charging system. My passion lies with sustainable and appropriate technologies that can drastically improve the quality of life for those on the bottom of the pyramid. As a young lad, I was an avid Lego architect. I also enjoy midnight strolls on the beach and fine wine.

Too much information? I suppose you’re right… after all, I am the tech guy; I should just talk nuts and bolts, silicon and semiconductor, joules and jigawatts. That’s all there is to technology. Right?

Given our current technology driven society, I would sometimes feel inclined to agree. What comes to mind when one thinks of modern tech? Space rockets. Sleek smartphones. Nuclear power plants. Yup. Cold, lifeless technology.

But peer a little deeper and you will find this is not the whole truth. As impersonal and emotionless as these items might seem, each new machine has a soul, bright and burning. Behind every product, there are human designers and users that shape it, defining how the item itself will shape lives.

In this modern age, it’s easy to be a pessimist when it comes to technology. When everyone and their mother has a phone that can keep us constantly connected, provide a never-ending flow of social media, and virtually fling disgruntled avians, it’s easy to see that these devices are changing our lives. But are they changing them for the better?

That, perhaps, is an issue for another post. What I can say for a certainty is that technology can improve lives for the better. The tireless work performed by organizations like VPI proves this beyond a doubt. In India, technology can replace harmful, kerosene lamps with sustainable, smoke-free alternatives, literally lighting the way to a brighter future. In Madagascar, human innovation can provide powerful biodigesters that produce much needed energy while simultaneously eliminating sanitation concerns. When I picture the souls of the projects we are working on, it is hard not to be overwhelmed with a very human emotion.

So the next time someone mentions the limitless possibilities of technology, think not of the monolith-like slate of a new tablet computer. Instead, try and imagine how even the simplest device could mean the world to someone. Try and conjure up the faces of those who might design and benefit from its function, those who comprise the soul of a machine.

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