Address at the Launch of the MDT Division (April 1990)
First Division Chair, Prof. Kiyohiko Umezawa (Tokyo Institute of Technology)
Currently, the world of machines is undergoing a period of unprecedented diversification. While machines remain as important as ever, we are witnessing the rise of office automation equipment such as information processing machines and photocopiers, as well as specialized production site machinery equipped with multiple intelligent functions.
The science and technology specialists involved in the design and development of these increasingly diverse machines focus all their attention on meeting the required specifications to achieve fresh advances specific to each field at the time. They have little opportunity to pause and reflect on whether they have used the optimal machines, elements, and lubrication methods to realize each goal. Moreover, they very seldom have a chance to observe developments in related fields.
Moreover, Transactions of the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers, which reflects the activities of the science and technology specialists responsible for research and development and is full of the latest information on mechanical engineering, appears to be in exactly the same situation.
In this situation, we seem to have an obsession with incorporating rapidly developing computer-aided technologies, new materials, and new technologies. It is becoming rare to organize a system from the basic technologies of machine elements and tribology. It feels as though we have completely lost our center of gravity, as we each make our own way towards our separate frontiers: moving ever outward or being driven outward. We scientific engineers seem to be undergoing our very own Big Bang.
This situation might be acceptable in the context of a short, all-out push towards a certain goal or a high-speed response to some problem. However, when we consider that the goal of technology is contentment in human life, it becomes clear that as long as humanity continues its eternal struggle, technology will always have a vital role to play. A short-sighted approach is therefore unacceptable. Rather, we should remind ourselves that our endeavor is in fact a long, ongoing one.
Let us remember that industrial technology has always had the reassuring logical system of engineering and the power to face the future. I believe we must reclaim these once again.
I think that the reason we are in this situation is that, driven by the need for instant efficiency, we appear to have decided that it is good enough to obtain all our information from books and screens. Face-to-face interaction may seem inefficient on the surface, but the only way possible for us to make the next leap forward is to meet and debate with one another, according to our individual expert knowledge. We seem to have forgotten this basic fact of human physiology, which is careless or perhaps even arrogant.
When I think about the Japanese word for “academic society,” it seems to give the impression that interacting with one another by means of the written word would be quite sufficient.
However, when we consider the English word “society,” from which the Japanese term was originally coined in translation, it suggests an interaction between a group of people with a common cultural base and a place for interactions that richly satisfies a refined desire for knowledge.
Ten months ago, I became the chair of the Machine Design and Tribology Committee, which was the predecessor of this division. Since that time, I have been constantly asking myself what a “society” should mean to machine designers, machine element designers and developers, and tribologists, each working independently in their own fields.
I have come to think that a society should fulfill the following functions: (1) It should be a body where the members can influence each other intellectually and where researchers can further their own research. It should be a place where researchers in the same field can gather and present their research to one another. (2) For machine designers, it should be a place to efficiently gather a wide range of information from researchers at the cutting edge—information that may be rough and unrefined, but full of potential and promise; moreover, information that cannot be found in print. (3) For researchers working on the frontiers of knowledge, it should be a place to pass on their fully seasoned knowledge and ideas to their junior colleagues, who will become the next generation of researchers and rely on the pride and good will of those research pioneers who have explored new frontiers before them. (4) For all members, it is of the utmost importance that we work together to make the society such a place, increase its quality and quantity, and enliven it to create not only an atmosphere but also a robust state of being that will attract junior colleagues to our field.
This, I think, is what a “society” in the true sense of the word should be. Since the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers has yet to realize this in our field, we have launched the Machine Design & Tribology Division as one of five narrowly defined specialist fields. The goal is to allow specialists whose fields of expertise are as close as possible to one another to form intensely focused societies. I believe this holds great potential.
In closing my address at the launch of the Machine Design & Tribology Division, I would like to ask all of you who are involved in it to take an active interest in nurturing our fledgling society. And, to our colleagues who belong to the Society of Mechanical Engineers, I ask that you would also look kindly upon our effort to establish this field within your own academic society.