Geotech Day 5/14/16 - Explore Geotech Vision 2040
May 13, 2016 
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When I was heading to Graduate School in 1989, Fax was most popular communication between two organizations to share documents. Phone outside city used to cost extra bucks. I saw Chinese Tiananmen square massacre on TV, then Kuwait vs Iraq. A friend of mine showed me his email communication with his future university: Purdue in real time. Email was sacred for computer science department only. When my FEM calculation program needed 8MB memory, I spent a week to get it approved in so called super computer [IBM machine] center. It used to take hours complete one cycle of computation.
As I started my Doctoral Program, the super computer has almost the same rule as before. My Professor purchased a Macintosh computer that has Mac's Window System for me. To run FEM program, we needed to go to old console and 24 line 80 column screen in computer room. Till then, Microsoft Window 3.1 was not that friendly. 
Suddenly we heard about Mosaic (former form Netscape). The Swiss physics research institute and birth of html based WWW. It spread like wildfire. Then, bookmarks and URL were very new vocabularies to us. Some pages were ranked 5% ... there were not that many pages. 
Iridium was mobile phone that looked like walkie-talkie. Monthly starting bill was $150. One minute talk would cost $3 to $10 depending on where you call. It was supposedly connected directly to satellite. Then came teleprompt .... something like that. It used to provide phone number of person who wants you to call him back. It was very popular among doctors. I remember my sponsor had it on his pocket, and we stopped in a random exit to find what was the reason for the call.
Windows 95 came in full swing. Then, came Windows 97. In 1997, NHK had a program that showed vision 2005, and they explained the future of two way communication. They told us that the you will communicate with others face to face as if right in front of you, something like today's SKYPE. It did not take that long. In 2000, I had another new desktop on which I was able to model entire Osaka aquifer that provides water supply to entire Osaka City. It was a three dimensional time bound analysis. I did not need super computer. One morning I got a call from IT department that my computer got a virus via email from Chinese Professor who submitted paper to the international workshop was an editor. When I replied to the Professor, he was very angry that he lost everything on his computer because of the virus. I could not open the file because it was infected. He had to type it again, and the file sent to me by him was infected again. Today, we don't have such problem in our corporate computers. Things have stabilized very well.
Geotech has also changed a lot. Computer monitoring and simulation have changed. Today, we can pass pictures to our supervisor from field and resolve the issues before end of the day. Communication has helped Geotech grow faster. Computation has improved. PLAXIS and other FEM software have grown to a new height. What has not changed is the Factor of Safety applied to Maximum Allowable Bearing Capacity of Footing. We still use unconfined compression strength or cohesion to define cohesive soil, and same phi to define granular soil, certainly, there are many sophisticated models published in learned journals.
From now, if you are supposed to think of Year 2040, like in Movie Back to the Future, what is your vision in Geotechnical Engineering considering you are in Year 2040. How will Geotechnical Engineering be shaped in next 25 years from now? Pour Your ideas. Lets be futuristic. Explore our future. How far can we imagine. Once we are there in 2040, we can return back to 2016, and enjoy our vision and analyze what we achieved successfully, and what we could not, and how we can proceed ahead to a better future. Lets enjoy May 14, 2016 as Geotech Day. At least 25 years later, we hope to find it a real Geotech day not only confined in LinkedIn. We can be proud of being part of celebrating this day as formal Geotech Day. When someone asks you at that time who were part of celebrating May 14, as Geotech Day, we can write it was 5.14.16.
In 2040:
(1) Solar Power cells / panels will be easily accessible. Nuke gauge can be recharged anywhere in the world. You will not be required to drive 100 miles to recharge it. I had to travel 100 miles up and down to recharge the nuke because of security and safety issue.
(2) Photography will improve so much that you take picture of soil mass, then the apps on your cell phone will analyze water content and grain size analysis. Today, a Nikon can take 64+ Mega Pixel. In one square inch, you have about 6.25 mega pixel that is nearly 2500 pixels in one inch length. That gives 100 pixels in 1 mm. If you take a picture on area of 4 by area, then one pixel is about 0.01 mm (very rough estimate). If you can develop an phone application, then you can perform a tentative sieve analysis where you can separate fines and sands to gravels. You just need to know how to map these soil grains. In near future, the infrared camera will be easily accessible. We already use Infrared camera to find water hiding under soil cover. It just has to be cheaper, and we need software to analyze it. We can use filters and use infrared flash to detect water content in soil mass. When I was Co-PI in Justice Department funded research to detect finger prints to be used in crime scene on different object, I came to know the power of different lights and filters. There can be another approach to use vapor to find water in soil mass by using flash lights of micro-waves. When micro-wave woven was invented in 1950s, it was like size of kitchen freeze, and today it is so small and so cheap. Micro-wave, VL, IR, and UV can be used to detect the water content on any surface.
(3) Today, we use Ultrasound to take picture of unborn baby - colored pictures are already possible. Technology will be so accessible, someone will develop to map the density and particle size distribution of soil mass using sonography. It is not impossible, it will be accessible.
(4) GeoMaterails - New low cost materials will be developed. They will be ecofriendly and biodegradable. Light weight materials will be used. Light weight concrete blocks will be extensively used in highway construction instead of today's reinforced soils. It will decrease the load on underlying soil, and increase the load carrying capacity the fill. The height of ramps can be increased.
(5). Software - Today, most numerical models are use only to understand the behavior of structure, and very minimum we use them to make forward prediction of the deformation and failure of structure. As the models come forward, the factor of safety will be closer to one.
(6) Geotechnical Subsurface Investigation - More efficient methods will be developed or made sophisticated as compared to old gold method of SPT N. CPT method may eventually replace SPT method of soil investigation.
(7) Drone will be used at the end of each day or hour to map the work and software will prepare a report what has been done today as compared to yesterday. You will be visiting project site only for a short period of time to visually verify or measure certain measurements using equipment. Drone now may cost $2000 per day, but in future, you can use without subcontract to today's experts. In 2020, European Satellites will begin operating, then Chinese will be coming with their satellites. All these will allow you to monitor your work on real time from satellites, not just a camera that we install these days for security and safety reason.
(98) Internship - More and more leading specialized Geotechnical companies will be lead by graduates from upper tier universities like UC Berkley, Georgia Tech, MIT, VT, Purdue, ..... UTA, Caltech....., they understand the power of internship. They know that if you offer internship to students in their alma mater or elsewhere, it will attract more young brilliant engineers in your profession who can bring new ideas. They will hire more students for internship, not because they are profitable in short run, but as an investment to achieve their future mission, vision, objective, and goals. Not other than my former supervisor has recently written a most inspiring article published in GI's newsletter a few years ago about mentoring / offering internship to young engineers. He explained the reason why should we mentor young engineers. You should read the article.
(99) Geotechnical Education - Geotechnical education in undergrad civil engineering school will be confined to one or two courses to those who don't intend to specialize or have focus in Geotechnical Engineering. That will be hardly more than Introduction to Soil Mechanics and Introduction to Foundation Engineering. As the numberof credits in General Education courses in undergrad studies grow to 50 to 60 credits, undergrad studies in civil or other engineering becomes more an introduction to civil engineering than the hardcore civil engineering that we were taught in previous century. Now, you need only 120 credit hours to get B.S. in Civil or other degrees. An average student will take up to 130, and hardly will go beyond 140. Even if you go 140 credit hours, most of your early credit hours will be earned while trying to figure out what major fits me in. In next 25 years, this kind of credit hours earned in undergrad will push licensing bodies to switch their criteria to require graduate degree. We may even switch to new model of professional schools like Med School, Law School, Architecture, .... where you are expected to have bachelor's degree in any general education to get admitted to their "trade" graduate school. That may be coming ahead in civil engineering as well. I am sure it will happen by the end of this century. I believe the transition is coming soon. Don't say, "No Way.", but say, "Why not? Explore it." Some Ivy or equivalents will start such degrees, and public universities will follow. It all depends on our lead professional who find something is missing in our new graduates who lack in their knowledge. Knowledge is science, and art is value to knowledge. If you lack knowledge, the art alone cannot add value to you. To get valued more, you will rush to get such degrees. Important thing will be the first university that will offer such degree in Geotechnical and Civil Engineering. I hope MIT will be the first one to propose such degree. Keep your eyes and ear open. Well, the degree may be named GD or CD : Geotech Doctor or Civil Doctor as in JD. Someone who is JD once told us that when they reincarnated the graduate degree in Law, they named JD from earlier version of LLM. He told us that his degree was indeed LLM, but his alma mater Yale (?) asked him 250 dollars as reissuance fee for his degree certificate. So, those who have M.S. or M.E. in geotechnical engineering from these institutions may offer conversion option at minimum cost to cover their documentation fee such that it will accelerate acceptance of their new graduate programs. It is how the existing professionals will find them new value addition to them while promoting such changes. Some will try to resist, but soon they will be in minority. What is your opinion on this kind of new challenges if you don't have graduate degree in Geotech but want to move up in the biz with bachelor's degree alone? Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Dell and many others can be our role model, but they were outliers, not a common geotechnical engineer. For a common geotechnical engineer such value added education will be very important and they will overtake your future job. JD, MD, PharmD, are trailer and real movie is coming soon in Geotechnical Engineering as well. No offense. 
(100) Professional Licensing - Right now we have professional licensing as "GE" is limited to a very few state (around 12?), by 2040, I believe all states will introduce a mandatory "GE" to become geotechnical design engineer of record, and seal on the Geotechnical Design Documents. To Get "GE", you will be required to have Masters Degree in Geotechnical Engineering.
More to follow.
What is your vision 2040 in geotechnical engineering?