Do you remember how exciting and hopeful the movie Jurassic Park started before it turned into a nightmare? If you haven’t seen the film, it follows a group of scientists to an island theme park populated by dinosaurs created from prehistoric DNA. As the story goes on, all safety measures fail as the group is hunted by velociraptors and a tyrannosaurus rex. The film is a cautionary tale often referenced by Mark Abbott, Executive Director of the Engineering Change Lab, when it comes to technological innovation. The question Mark asks others to ponder is: Just because you can do something, should you? 

To explore this question, the Engineering Change Lab community (including at Suncor) developed a technology stewardship program that delves into our relationship with technology—how it’s transforming our world and how we can help bend the arc of technology to benefit all. Through a series of modules, participants are guided to reflect on what and how we do things. This short video about the program highlights a few of today’s biggest challenges that have stemmed from yesterday’s tech heavy solutions like altering our climate, giving up our privacy and creating screen zombies. 

“Good intentions are not enough,” says Mark. “Everyone wants to make a positive impact through their work, but it’s difficult to predict and navigate the inevitable tensions we will face – for example, optimizing existing processes versus focusing on transformative innovation. Tech stewardship practice is all about supporting each other to notice, name and reflect on these tensions to find ‘both/and’ rather than ‘either/or’ steps forward.”

The Engineering Change Lab’s tech stewardship program is geared towards supporting individuals and groups to launch an ongoing practice. Its values-based approach makes it relevant to everyone, not just those in engineering roles. Instead of focusing on technical aspects of an innovation, participants are guided to integrate their own reflections into the work and deliberate potential outcomes to understand how they are being shaped by technology and vice-versa – ultimately leading back to the “should we” question posed earlier.

“Suncor has come up with a lot of innovations to minimize our impact on air, water, land, biodiversity and climate” says Todd Pugsley, Director of Technology Development – Bitumen Value Chain Optimization, who represents Suncor on the  Engineering Change Lab’s strategy team . “The technology stewardship modules provide a framework that can help participants better understand and reflect on the impact of their innovations in the broader social and cultural context both inside and outside of Suncor.” 

Practicing technology stewardship will take intentional effort and time before it becomes common practice. Mark believes the world will be a better place if more of us can connect our individual behaviors to something bigger. Recognizing how personal values and contributions shape teams, an organization and society can prevent negative outcomes from getting technology wrong—as seen in Jurassic Park. 

The Engineering Change Lab is supported by the Suncor Energy Foundation. The Engineering Change Lab offers free drop-In practice sessions that are held weekly and are open to anyone—those currently taking the tech stewardship practice program, alumni of the program, or new people who are curious about tech stewardship.