Colin Parris, the chief technology officer at GE Digital, has spent his career helping companies gather data and find ingenious ways to analyze it and get smarter. He has helped pioneer technologies like digital twins — digital models of real-world machines like jet engines or turbines that can be used to model and predict the outcomes of possible future situations — and “humble AI,” a concept that aims to bring the human and the AI together. “The AI is good when I have a lot of data, but when the weather pattern is changing so rapidly, I need a human to help me understand it,” Parris says. “A little baby, after it touches a hot stove once or twice, it learns quickly.”
Parris (pictured above) says that keeping humans in the loop will be key in the digital future. “The human and the computers will augment each other. This is the way you have to deal with the world. I can’t wait until I have 500 examples of everything failing. I need to figure it out after two.”
It’s insights like these that make Parris one of the top experts in his field. So much so that in February the National Academy of Engineers (NAE) elected him as a member, along with Manoj Shah, a principal engineer at GE Research, and John D. McDonald, smart-grid business development leader at GE Grid Solutions. The three GE engineers are among the 133 U.S. and international members elected as part of the 2022 class.
Shah also previously received the prestigious Nikola Tesla Award for improving on the electric motor. McDonald is one of the country’s leading experts on the digital grid. “The concept of grid monitoring has been around for decades,” McDonald says. “But the advances in big data, software, fiber optics and digital wireless communications now really bring it alive.”
To be elected as a NAE member, one of the most prestigious professional honors an engineer can receive, engineers must be nominated by a peer, with nominations going through a yearlong process before the final selections. NAE members must demonstrate that they have helped to pioneer new developments in their field and made outstanding contributions in engineering.
Image credit: GE Digital