Professional Contemporizing: A Personal Challenge
- F.D. Stockman (Northern Natural Gas Co.) | J.R. Dempsey (Northern Natural Gas Co.) | F.W. Preston (The U. Of Kansas)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- September 1967
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 1,113 - 1,117
- 1967. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 4.6 Natural Gas, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 1.2.3 Rock properties, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training
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- 156 since 2007
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This article outlines one major company's method of insuring that its engineers keep up with the increased expansion of technical knowledge. The continuing education program developed for personnel of one division is presented and evaluated as to methods of presentation and impact upon participants. Stressed in the article is the unique industry-university cooperation exhibited in the program.
The problem of technological obsolescence has been recognized for many years. Practically every journal devoted to engineering or technology and many outside this area have published editorials calling attention to the accelerating rate at which knowledge is increasing. These editorials also point out the serious problem facing scientists, engineers and even managers because of their own decreasing familiarity with principles once learned and because of the growing store of human knowledge.
The Knowledge Gap
Fig. 1 dramatically illustrates the growing gap between knowledge that is available to the technical world and the individual's knowledge that is eroded through infrequent use and a fallible memory. The number of publications in the technical literature is a measure of the increase in human knowledge. In 1963 Kriegel estimated that the total volume of technical literature would double in the period from 1960 through 1967. This prediction is already a fact and corresponds to a rate of increase of about 10 percent per year compounded annually. In a like manner, Thomas Stelson, head of the Civil Engineering Dept. of the Carnegie Institute of Technology, estimated that the decay of an engineer's knowledge without renewal is approximately 10 percent per year compounded annually. The difference between these two effects, called the knowledge gap (KG), can be reduced to the following generalized equation, KG = (1 + i)n - 1/(1 + d)n, where i = fraction increase per year in man's knowledge, d = fractional decrease per year in an engineer's remembered knowledge if no subsequent training is undertaken and n = number of years since graduation.
This equation is not the most plausible or best mathematical model of obsolescence. However, it does have gross qualitative significance. If, using the criteria cited above, i = d = 0.10, then within 5 years after graduation, a person's KG can be as large as his original store of knowledge.
A much more disturbing aspect of this obsolescence is that the changes in technology within the past decade have been so extensive that the entire mission of engineering has changed.
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