Krista's Coding Corner


Offtopic: make a difference – be an engineer

Couple of days ago I was discussing about life and everything with one person. He proposed that I should become a politician. I was a bit astonished about it as I’m not that type of a person who wishes to have anything to do with politics (though I might have some political opinions, like we all do). But I guess that his point was that as being a politician, one can change the world to a better direction and if you have real experience with the citizens and especially young people, you could give them a voice.

I have to say that I don’t see things like he does; I feel that I can change the world by being a darn good engineer. And I think that I may have even bigger influence in that way than if I changed into politics. Okay, I probably won’t change the world and our thinking in same sense as Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Larry Page&Sergey Brin (Google), Linus Torvalds (Linux), Matti Makkonen&co. (text messages to mobiles), Stephen Hawking (popularizing physics and cosmology), Vint Cerf&Bob Kahn (TCP/IP-protocol, basis of the Internet) , Marie Curie (radioactivity) or James Watt (fundamental improvements to steam engine), just to mention few.

But mostly science and technology doesn’t have these types of individual “stars”. Achievements in fields of engineering (and science also) are typically climaxes of team effort. World might have been more simple once but today things are easily really complex and huge as we have enormous amounts of knowledge. No-one can know everything these days. And it is also quite hard to say that “now it is finished, wow, look at what we have done”. Engineering is mostly long-span development with other people, although projects end and others begin.

I think that people want to be (/ feel that they are) something important and irreplaceable. Maybe that is the reason why so many want to be Idols, pop-stars or even athletes: by looking at media they seem to be important people whose opinions and even living habits others want to know. And they are individuals.

I could understand that engineering doesn’t sound so good, as (in reality) it is hard to be autocrat and superstar-like in the fields of engineering. But how many “regular” people know this? We see articles after articles of success stories about people creating things like Angry Birds. As people, we do have a tendency to personalize everything, even these team efforts into a one person. So, why it doesn’t seem to be interesting to become an engineer and create something great? Isn’t it cool to design and build world’s biggest ship or tallest building, give people new ways to communicate or calculate how we actually can diminish our traffic jams?

People do think that celebrities have a lot influence, which is true, of course, but they still are not the ones who make this world go around. Now we might think that “ou, yes, now we go back to politics or maybe to money + big companies… or even to love?”. Well, I’ll just state this: the rulers of today –whoever they are- get their tools and means from engineers as technology is the thing shaping our societies.

(By the way, I would like to know which one has had a better influence to the world: Bill Gates or Madonna?)

To end this all: I am an engineer, and I’m here to improve anything that I will come across. That is something I enjoy and feel important. I also believe that if I want to save this planet of ours, it is possible via technology. Or do you actually believe that we could globally consume less? And are you really willing to say that only in Europe and North America everyone is titled to do their laundry with a machine?

Technology won’t make us happy but it also isn’t the purpose of it. It just makes some things easier and more tolerated. Development may be scary in some ways but how many would still want that mobile phone cameras wouldn’t exist? Although, we really don’t need them for surviving.

Engineers do have a huge moral obligation towards the world as they are the people who can really make the difference (just look at our history). So, I think that being an engineer is a big honour but also a responsibility. If we romanticize knights of the past, should we also romanticize the engineers of today as they are now doing the fighting for us? We may have wars against each other but we really should be focusing in the war of making this little globe of ours more livable and durable place for everybody.

What is the real purpose of life, I can’t say, but going towards harmony shouldn’t be against that, and technology can help us to get there.

PS. If you look more into Matti Makkonen and the invention of text messages, you’ll see a perfect example on how new innovations are born: it is messy and it is hard to say who gave and what into the idea, and was the previous technology actually already doing it all.

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