Incredible engineering collection donated to Waterford IT

Justin Kelly

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Justin Kelly

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Incredible engineering collection donated to Waterford IT

Incredible engineering collection donated to Waterford IT

Waterford Institute of Technology’s (WIT) INSYTE Research Centre has announced that the Cooley family has donated the entire archive of Professor Mike Cooley, one of the most important and influential Irish engineers of his generation.

Tuam native Cooley was the founding chairman of the international journal AI & Society, which is now a major international forum for socially responsible technology.

Prof Mike Cooley’s work is relevant now more than ever – Prof Cooley understood the implication of robots and other automation including artificial intelligence, and how it can transform organisational life and society for good or ill.

WIT has a long tradition of human-centered systems education and research and the Centre for INformation SYstems and TEchno-culture (INSYTE) is an interdisciplinary, cross-school research centre in the field of information systems and organizations.

It was announced on the afternoon of Thursday, March 7, at a Computing International Research Day showcasing computing-related research at the School of Science and Computing at WIT.

While Prof Cooley was unable to travel to the event his sister represented the Cooley Family. Speakers included distinguished Professor Karamjit Gill, Editor-in-Chief, Artificial Intelligence and Society and Distinguished Professor Petros Groumpos, University of Patras, Greece, a leading expert in artificial intelligence and automation.

Prof Groumpos’ talk has the title: “Creating New Knowledge through Intelligent and Cognitive Control: The legacy of Michael Cooley.” It centred on the creation of new knowledge combining wisely Intelligent and Cognitive control. Following the legacy of Prof Mike Cooley, he stressed that aside from the pure pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, the triangle of knowledge and research must be linked to the solving of other people’s problems. That is, what other people experience as problems.

“Prof Mike Cooley’s legacy is huge. Although he became a renowned aeronautical and systems engineer, his deep sense of the critical importance of human society and creativity, so central to Irish village life, always shone through. As a cybernetician and systems thinker, he was one of the early advocates of socially responsible, technology development. He was an early pioneer of human centred systems engineering, relentlessly emphasizing design approaches for digital systems and technologies that enriched human creativity and liberated people and their communities from the shadow-side of automation,” he said.

Dr Larry Stapleton, Director of the INSYTE Centre, Waterford Institute of Technology commented: “The donation of this archive is of international importance and we are very honoured to house it in our library here in Waterford. It is a diverse and fascinating collection which fittingly comes at a historical turning point in the relationship between humans and their technologies, charting as it does the birth of the “socially useful production” movement and human-centred thinking about automation and digital systems.”

“WIT is extremely grateful for the extraordinary generosity of Mike and the Cooley family both in the donation and in their engagement with our Institute,” he added.

Prof Cooley was a trade union leader best known for his work on the Lucas Aerospace Plan. The aim of the Lucas plan was to change the Lucas company’s output from weapons to socially useful products. Professor Cooley won the Right Livelihood Award (an alternative of The Nobel Prize) in 1981, “for designing and promoting the theory and practice of human-centred, socially useful production”. The Lucas plan went on to have a great impact in the Labour movement in the United Kingdom and abroad.

The term ‘human-centred’, and the relationship between humans and technology is a key theme throughout Prof Cooley’s work, especially in his 1980 book ‘Architect or Bee?’.

The archive was donated through INSYTE to the Luke Wadding Library at WIT and includes over 1,400 items including photographs, correspondences, journals, books, drawings, videos, cassette tapes, and slides. WIT scholars in the library and INSYTE are working together to explore this digital resource. The donation is of enormous academic significance, and institute librarians have begun actively curating this large collection to make it available to the national and international scholarly community.

The WIT library is becoming an important location for collections of national significance and in curating digital artefacts.