Prometheus Re-Engineered

wc-portrait-retired-mechanic-77-2If engineers are the latest incarnation of Prometheus, this time Zeus must have taken the bother to make sure they get straight to the point and do not get lost in a labyrinth of sophisticated disquisitions.

I love this quote by Langdon Winner which must have been the result of one of those weird “encounters” you have from time to time when talking with engineers, particularly the youngest and ambitious amongst them(1):

(…) engineers appear unaware of any philosophical questions their work might entail (…) The scant few who raise important first questions about their technical professions are usually seen by their colleagues as dangerous cranks and radicals. If Socrates’ suggestion that the “unexamined life is not worth living” still holds, it is news to most engineers (Langdon Winner , “Technologies as forms of life”)

Herbert Simon said that engineers are concerned with how things ought to be in order to attain goals and to function(2). And the truth is that they can speak for hours about what to do, and for thousands of hours about how to do it, but ask them about why! Engineers are great but make sure you aim them in the right direction.


(1) Langdon Winner, “The Whale and the Reactor”, 1989
(2) Herbert Simon, “The Sciences of the Artificial”, 1969

Featured Image: Susan Dorothea White, The Retired Mechanic

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