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Engineers and Society

Engineers and Society

Original Publication Date: January 18, 2011

Before I get into the role and importance of engineering, I’d like to make the terms “Engineer” and “Engineering” clear in the reader’s mind. Webster’s Dictionary defines Engineering as “the applications of scientific and mathematical principles to practical ends such as the design, construction, and operation of efficient and economical structures, equipment and systems.” An Engineer is an individual who is educated to use the principles of Engineering to create technology and wealth for society.

The role of engineers in society and their importance is rather simple yet profound. Engineers are the designers for nearly all man-made objects and all others are still only made possible by the existence of engineers and engineering. The reason is simple. Anything that has to be built needs a design, a blueprint. All infrastructure in society, all vehicles on the road, air and sea, all technological and electronic devices, and so on—all these objects needed to be designed before being built. Those designers are engineers.

As you can see, most of the material world outside of Mother Nature herself was possible only because of engineers. Whether it be a mechanical engineer, civil engineer, electrical engineer, or another type of engineer, some kind of engineer was ultimately responsible. Besides the man-made objects that make up our physical world, there is also the interaction between peoples, countries and cultures that give us “society” and our current global culture. The means of interaction being the ability to travel (planes, cars, trains, ships…) and the ability to communicate (telephone, internet…). Again, both are made possible by engineers. So if you love your iPhone / Droid / Smartphone, don’t thank Steve Jobs or whoever else runs the company. Thank all the engineers working for him that actually made the phone.

Given the above, does it seem odd that this profession isn’t as recognizable as say, doctors or lawyers? When one thinks of a highly respected profession, doctors and lawyers are typically the first to mind. I credit this mostly to mass media (think of all the doctor and lawyer shows there are), their high paying wages, and their profession’s ability to make their line of work seem extremely vital. I will elaborate on this in a future post.

The point being, engineers are absolutely vital to the existence of society. Therefore, they should be given the kind of recognition that other so-called “top professions” get. It obviously seems ridiculous to consider this but the kind of treatment celebrities and professional athletes get is far more deserving of engineers, a profession that contributes more to society than all celebrities and athletes. When considering why you admire who you admire, one of the fundamental principles should be to consider how much that person contributes to the progress of humanity. Great leaders and thinkers, artists and poets, generals and soldiers, engineers and architects, these are the kinds of people we should look up to. Those who expanded our understanding, improved our thinking, inspired us to greatness, protected our freedom to live our lives, and allowed us the ability to live at all...those are the kinds of heroes humanity should praise.

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