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Didem Gurdur

When I was a kid, there were not so many TV channels. Hey, I am not old, my country developed slower! That TV channel used to show nature documentaries on weekends and it happened to be my habit to watch oceans, forests, deserts and other exotic far places while I was having my breakfast. It was a big fight to convince my mother to let us sit in the living room during meal times but having a documentary was a good excuse so she let us do it.

People who know me a little bit knows how much I love whales. I blame these documentaries for that. Since my childhood, I had a special relationship with the whales. I am not sure if it can be called relationship, since they do not know anything about me. But yeah, you got the idea.

In our home, now, we continue to watch documentaries for weekend breakfasts and every time we watch them, we cry. It can be the sea lions who are falling from the cliffs because of melting ices, polar bears swimming in a vast ocean without any icecaps around, dying sharks without fins, damaged coral reefs or the baby elephant who lost her parents. Everytime, we feel ashamed of being a part of human kind. Do you watch documentaries? Do you also feel the same? I am sure you are.

It comes to a point that I ask myself, what the heck am I doing to help the world to be a better place? Is it really possible to change the world? Can I really do something?

Individually, I am doing the best I can. I am a vegan, so at least I know that I do not contribute to the fishing industry. I know many divers who dive into the deep blue, take photos of the corals, admire the ocean and the life underwater and yet eat fish for dinner. Are you one of them? I know many nature lovers, hikers, who hugs the trees, feed the cats on the street, owns a dog yet eat the chicken for lunch. Yeah, we are kind of hypocrite and if I tell these things to anyone’s face, I can be seen as a threat so generally I only do small comments and shut my mouth to do not make people feel guilty. Don’t get me wrong you are all wonderful people, but I have to make you uncomfortable for a second here. This is how it works. I will make myself uncomfortable throughout this post, so it is quite fair in my opinion.

Politically, I am not bad also. I support several organizations both national and international. We buy gifts from these organizations to support them, I ask to get gifts as a donation to these organizations, we are members and pay membership fees for some and so on. I know people sharing posts here there but not giving 10 euros for the cause. I know they care somehow and want all to know how important the threat is but then again, it is not as important as many other things so it stops after pressing the share button.

And professionally, I am ashamed of myself. Now, more than ever, I feel really responsible and guilty. I guess, it is because I had a milestone of completing my Ph.D degree and have the chance to decide what I will do next. I often ask myself; did I do anything for making the world a better place by my research? No, not really. I studied sustainable environment and energy systems as a masters degree. Not that I did anything at that time but during my Ph.D. I did even less. Ok, I talked about sustainability whenever I had the opportunity but my contribution had nothing to do with this overall goal of changing the world for the better. So today is the day that I should make myself uneasy and try to think about how I can do better.

Therefore, I started to think about a research proposal which has an overall objective of improving the current engineering practices for human-centered, sustainable cyber-physical systems. Yes, I have spent a considerable amount of time to gain deep knowledge about these systems and tried to somehow improve their performance, interoperability, complexity, and a little bit of sustainability. But it is not enough. We need innovative engineering frameworks, environments, knowledge, and tools for realizing cyber-physical systems and services to make these systems sustainable, ethical, understandable, extendable, successful, safe and useful. You know what, this will make me sleep well at night.


So, I wonder, do you feel that you should do something to change the world? How do you do individually, politically or professionally? Do you feel uncomfortable? Can I help you to do something about it so you can also sleep well tonight?