October 23, 2005

Does Engineering Matter and is Free Trade Really Free?

 A few years ago, a great deal of discussion was generated in the "business community" about a paper someone wrote which asked, "Does Information Technology Matter?" I am not sure about the details of that discussion, but I think it is time that we ask the same question about engineering. Or worse yet, we now need to ask, "Does Industry Matter?

Well, I believe the answer depends on the scope of the discussion. If the scope of the discussion is solving the needs of mankind in the 21st Century, I would say industry and engineering does matter. If the scope of discussion is enabling mankind to explore, understand, and utilize the fabulous universe that surrounds us, again I would say that the answer is yes, industry and engineering does matter. However, if the scope of the discussion is satisfying CEO's, investors, and the DemoRepublicats in the US government, then I am afraid that industry and engineering does not matter any more. So, unfortunately, in the real, day-to-day world most of us find ourselves, we don't matter.

Two developments of the last few decades clearly indicate that our "leaders" care little for us and what we do. These developments were "free trade" and "outsourcing". Of course, these concepts are shrouded in the smoke that rises from the incense-burning of the Federal Reserve druids. And, mortals that actually contemplate whether these concepts are good policy are subjected to ridicule from the MBA brotherhood. But, it is undeniable that these immaturely-implemented concepts ensure that what engineers do (and what mechanical engineers do in particular) will soon evaporate in the US. It may be "fighting progress" to want to keep manufacturing and related arts in the United States, but what if I like building cars? Or trains? Or planes? Or rockets? Or cranes? Am I stupid for wanting to do work on something I can actually see and touch? Staring at piles of coins, bills, and stock certificates just does not "do it" for me.
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I get the same feeling too.. working with computers all day, I prefer owning and working on something tangible. 

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