Based largely on the labors of engineers, we are currently living in a Golden Age, so a little appreciation might be in order.
As I pen these words, it's the start of National Engineers Week here in the USA. This celebration of engineering heroes takes place the week that encompasses George Washington's birthday on February 22, because President Washington is regarded as being the nation's first engineer (notably for his survey work).
I was cogitating, musing, and ruminating on this nugget of knowledge whilst driving to work this morning. Although it pains me to say this, my wife (Gina the Gorgeous) has been known to cast disparaging remarks about engineers in general and yours truly in particular. Admittedly, this is usually after one of my hobby projects has undergone an unfortunate transmogrification and departed for a new plane of existence, but I always clean up the mess afterwards.
The thing is that I don’t believe the unwashed masses realize how much they owe to us (by "us" I mean the engineering fraternity). When I consider how grim life used to be in the not-so-distant past, it occurs to me that most people simply don't realize just how lucky they are.
Life used to be hard. Consider my dear old mom, for example. They didn’t get electricity in her house until 1943 when she was 13 years old. Also, they had only a single cold-water tap (faucet) to service the entire house. Their toilet was outdoors at the bottom of the yard and they kept the family's tin bath in the basement, only bringing it up once a week on bath night -- first her grandfather, then her mother, then her brother, then mom and her sister (her dad, my grandfather, was away at sea with the Royal Navy). By comparison, I can bask in a steaming hot shower whenever the fancy takes me (I indulge myself at least once a month, whether I need one or not).
What comes to your mind when you hear the term "engineer"? Well, obviously knobs and dials and switches and flashing lights and interesting sounds and strange mechanisms of unknown purpose -- I think that goes without saying.
What I'm trying to get at is the myriad engineering wonders that bring comfort and joy to our lives. I'll start off by plucking some of the low-hanging fruit as follows:
- Electric lighting in all its varied forms.
- Hot and cold running water.
- Heating and air conditioning systems.
- Radio and television.
- Planes, trains, and automobiles.
- Ships and spaceships.
- Computers and the Internet and "stuff."
Of course, others have their role to play, like the scientists and boffins who wield their arcane knowledge and conceive their capriciously cunning concepts. At the end of the day, however, it's the salt-of-the-earth engineers who take these esoteric inspirations and turn them into something that actually works (most of the time, on a good day, if the wind is blowing from the right direction).
Since the dawn of history, the overwhelming majority of humans have clawed their way through miserable lives of abject squalor (it wasn't all fun-and-games as portrayed in Hollywood musicals). If you could hop on a time machine to travel back in time and bring people forward to see our world, I believe that 99.999% of them would be of the opinion that we live lives of unmitigated luxury.
Based largely on the labors of engineers, I truly think we are currently living in a Golden Age, so I think a little appreciation and recognition would be in order. I'm not suggesting that non-engineers should be obliged to prostrate themselves on the floor as we amble along lost in our lofty contemplations. Far be it from me, however, to deny them this simple pleasure if they felt moved to do so. For myself, being the humble fellow that I am (I pride myself on my humility), I feel that a small bow of the head or a simply curtsey would suffice.
How about you? Do you feel that the contributions of engineers go unappreciated by the great unwashed? And what other prized engineering contributions would you add to my list above?
— Max Maxfield, Editor of All Things Fun & Interesting