Fresh out of college,
I went to work for a consulting firm.
During orientation, the leaders dished out advice.
Amongst them was one pithy counsel I will never forget.
He told us, “Be easy to manage.”
Considering how naïve I really was at the time,
I took his advice to heart.
I told myself,
“Yes, I will be the ultimate team player.
I will do everything I’m told.
I will be easy to manage.”
It wasn’t until I arrived in graduate school
and witnessed firsthand the criminal actions of scientists and engineers
in the water crisis in Flint, Michigan
that I realized how dangerous and yet surprisingly common
this line of thinking really is.
Make no mistake:
the Flint water crisis is one of the most egregious environmental injustices of our time.
For over 18 months,
100,000 residents, including thousands of young children,
were exposed to contaminated drinking water with high levels of lead.
Lead is a potent neurotoxin
which causes cognitive and developmental disabilities
and is especially harmful to growing fetuses and young children.
We’ve known about its dangers since the Roman Empire.
Amongst a whole host of health issues,
12 people died by contracting Legionnaires’ disease.
Flint’s water infrastructure
the complex network of underground pipes
has been severely damaged.
And while the water quality is slowly improving
and the pipes are being replaced now,
more than two years later,
the water is still not safe to drink.
So, people are still in shock.
They ask themselves,
“How could this have happened?”
The short answer is: the crisis began when an emergency manager,
appointed by Michigan’s governor,
decided to switch their water source to a local river to save money.
But it continued for so long
because scientists and engineers at government agencies
in the state of Michigan and in the federal government
did not follow federal regulations for treating the water right.
What was more,
they actively cheated on the law and orchestrated cover-ups.
They ridiculed residents asking for help,
while publicly insisting that the brown, smelly water coming out of the tap
was safe to drink.
当地 州 以及联邦的整个系统
The system at the local, state and federal levels completely failed
to protect our most vulnerable,
and an entire population was left to fend for itself.
如今 值此不公正对待中 弗林特居民正团结一心
Now, amidst this injustice, Flint residents were rallying together.
Amongst them were some amazing women of Flint —
mothers concerned about their kids —
who came together forming many grassroots coalitions,
and these groups started protesting and demanding change.
The group also reached out to outside scientists for help,
and a few responded.
Amongst them was a guy named Miguel Del Toral,
a water expert at the US EPA — the Environmental Protection Agency —
who actually wrote this scientific memo
and sent it to the state of Michigan and the federal government
to bring their attention to this problem.
He was characterized a “rogue employee,”
In collaboration with Flint residents,
our research team here at Tech,
含学生 科学家 由马克•爱德华教授带领
of students and scientists led by professor Marc Edwards,
conducted citywide testing
to prove that Flint’s water was indeed contaminated,
even toxic in some homes.
We substantiated what Flint had been screaming for months,
and put it on the Internet for the world to see.
Now, when I was getting involved,
when I said yes to this,
I had no idea what I was getting into.
But every second of this journey has been totally worth it.
This was science in service to the public.
This is what I came to graduate school for,
and this is how I would rather spend my life.
And so this coalition —
这个居民 牧师 记者 科学家组成的不像样的组织
this unlikely coalition of citizens, pastors, journalists and scientists —
聚到一起 用科学 主张和行动揭露事实
came together to uncover the truth using science, advocacy and activism.
A local pediatrician figured out
that the instances of childhood lead poisoning had indeed doubled
in Flint during the crisis.
And the state of Michigan was forced to acknowledge the problem
and take steps to correct it.
This group and many others got Flint’s kids protected.
A few months later,
President Obama came in and declared a federal emergency,
如今 弗林特在医疗保健 营养及教育方面
and now Flint is getting more than 600 million dollars
in healthcare, nutrition, education
and overhauling their water infrastructure.
然而 那些忽视公共安全 傲慢而冷酷的
However, the arrogance and the callous disregard for public health
shown by scientists and engineers at these government agencies
is beyond belief.
These unhealthy cultures that are festering in these groups,
where the focus is on meeting regulations and checking boxes
as opposed to protecting public health,
is just appalling.
Just consider this email that an EPA employee wrote,
where she goes,
“I’m not so sure Flint is a community we want to go out on a limb for.”
The dehumanization of an entire population could not be more obvious.
Now, contrast that to the first canon of engineering,
which, in my opinion, should be the first law of humanity:
“To hold paramount the health, safety and welfare of the public,”
above all else.
This is the Hippocratic Oath we’ve rarely acknowledged,
let alone embraced.
因此 当科学家 工程师担任像医生那样的角色
And so when scientists and engineers, very much like medical doctors,
people can get hurt
If our professionals and even students fail to get that,
society pays a huge price.
Buried deep in history lies a character I deeply admire —
an engineer named Peter Palchinsky.
He lived in the time of the Soviet Union.
And Palchinsky repeatedly got in trouble for his radical honesty
and willingness to point out major flaws in the Soviets’ mindless pursuit
of rapid industrialization.
Everyone was expected to follow orders coming from the top.
Anyone asking questions or offering feedback was unwelcome.
The Soviets had created the largest army of engineers the world had ever seen,
and yet most of them were mere cogs in a gigantic machine heading for doom.
Palchinsky, on the other hand, implored engineers
可以看到经济 政治 及他们行为产生的社会结果
to look at the economic, political and social consequences of their actions;
in other words, be more public-focused.
His fearless voice of reason was seen as a threat
to the political establishment,
and Joseph Stalin had him executed in 1929.
Palchinsky’s view on technocrats is very different
from one that is still very popular, still very common
即 没有感情的研究人员 就该在他象牙塔内的实验室
that of a dispassionate researcher working in his ivory tower lab,
or a nerdy engineer working in his cubicle.
Brilliant, no doubt,
yet somehow cut off from the world,
shows little emotion —
kind of like Spock from “Star Trek,” you know?
Let’s try and do the Spock salute.
I don’t think I’ll succeed …
See, I can’t be Spock.
Thank goodness I can’t be Spock.
I was reminded of this distinction because a recent article came out
in a very reputed scientific journal,
which kind of characterized our Flint work as driven by “youthful idealism,”
and “Hollywood’s dramatic sensibilities.”
It asks scientists to protect their research funding and institutions
at all costs, no matter how just the cause.
And if you think you have to get involved in something,
even if it’s an emergency,
try finding an activist group or an NGO,
and obtain the full support of the academic community —
whatever that means —
before you get involved.
Not one mention of our moral and professional obligation
of preventing harm to the public,
or the fact that we have all this expertise,
resources and, for some, even tenure
to, you know, accomplish this task.
I’m not saying every scientist should be an activist.
There are real and sometimes very painful consequences of speaking up.
But to denounce this idea, this possibility so completely
so that you can protect research funding,
simply screams of self-serving cowardice,
and these are not the ideals we would want to pass to our students.
你知道 你可能想：“好吧 听起来很棒”
And so, you know, you may think, “OK, all this sounds great,
but you’ll never completely change organizational cultures,
or imbibe mindsets in students and professionals
to look at their work as a public good —
science in service to the public.”
But could a big reason for that be
that we are not training our students right?
Because if you look closely,
our education system today is focused more on creating
what ex-Yale professor William Deresiewicz calls “excellent sheep” —
young people who are smart and ambitious,
不过同时他们内心也会存有保守 懦弱 迷茫
and yet somehow risk-averse, timid, directionless and, sometimes, full of themselves.
现在 孩子们 你们知道
Now, kids … you know,
we fell in love with science when we were kids,
and yet we somehow spend most of our time during high school and college
just jumping through hoops
and doing things so that we can polish our résumé
instead of sitting down
and reflecting on what we want to do and who we want to be.
the markers of empathy in our college graduates
have been dropping dramatically in the past two decades,
while those of narcissism are on the rise.
There is also a growing culture of disengagement between engineering students and the public.
We are trained to build bridges and solve complex problems
而不是如何思考 生活 或融入这个世界
but not how to think or live or be a citizen of this world.
My undergraduate years were explicit job preparation,
and I cannot tell you how suffocating and painful it was at times.
some people think the solution to great engineers, to great scientists,
is more technical training.
But where are the discussions on ethical decision-making,
or building character,
or discerning right from wrong?
Consider this project that I deeply love and admire.
It’s called, “Heroic Imagination Project.”
A brainchild of Dr. Phil Zimbardo,
famous for the Stanford Prison Experiment,
this program seeks to train school-going children around the world
to look at themselves as heroes-in-waiting,
So, these young minds work over time to develop skills and virtues
so that when the opportunity comes,
no matter what that opportunity be,
to stand up and do the right thing.
In other words,
anyone can be a hero.
Think about that idea for a second.
Why don’t we teach science and engineering like that —
where heroism and public service are seen as key values,
because indeed, it’s often heroism
that is not only the antidote to public indifference,
but also to systemic evil like we saw in Flint.
And so, dream with me
what a 21st-century scientist slash engineer could look like:
individuals who are driven to master the sciences
so that they can serve society,
and are also aware of the tremendous power their knowledge and decisions have;
folks who are developing their moral courage at all times,
and who realize that conflict and controversy
are not necessarily bad things
if our ultimate loyalty is to the public and the planet.
These are the people who will stand up like we did in Flint
not to be saviors or heroes in the media,
but altruistic and fundamentally good actors that you and I can trust.
设想 如果在班级 服务访问中 活动里
Imagine fostering such a public-focused mindset
in classes, on service trips and during activities
during college or even high school,
so that these young minds will hold onto those ideals
when they actually enter the real world,
whether that be consulting, academia, policy making
or even becoming the president of a country.
Some of mankind’s greatest challenges lie ahead of us;
contaminated drinking water is just one example.
We could definitely use more nay.
We desperately need more compassionate upstanders
and public-focused scientists and engineers
who will strive to the do right thing,
and not be easy to manage.