From Stone Age to CAD age

Flight International Comment 1 October

Of the distinctions between human and other animals, none is so profound as our ability to make and use tools. From the first shovel to multi-ton earthmovers and from chisels to 3D printers, our tools have long been an extension of our hands and minds. Better tools have enabled better, bigger and more capable buildings, infrastructure and machines.
Our tools define us. As tools have improved, we have progressed through the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages. That most recent of powerful tools, the computer, has arguably taken us into the Information Age.
While our tools may define us, we certainly regard ourselves as their masters. Above all, it takes a human mind to decide just what to do with a tool; no number of monkeys banging away at computer terminals would ever really end up with an aircraft – at least not one you’d want to fly in.
The latest computer-aided design software is breathtakingly sophisticated, providing the most transparent bridge yet between our imaginations and our work. CAD and the internet have also opened a new world of global collaboration, which is a beautiful thing.
But while collaboration magnifies the creative power of each engineer, it also changes notions of ownership of intellectual property. Some companies will master this tricky environment. Others may start to wonder if we are losing control of our tools.


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