Friday, January 17, 2014

Engineering is the Big Gamble

A paragraph to ponder - - from The Washington Post:

"Some of the most highly touted smartphone innovations are barely used at all. A 2012 Harris Interactive poll showed that just 5 percent of Americans used their smartphones to show codes for movie admission or to show an airline boarding pass. Whether that’s because of a lack of interest or lack of know-how (or both) is not entirely clear, but experts who study smartphone use, as well as tech-support professionals who work with the confused, say they see smartphone obliviousness at all ages and for all kinds of reasons."

Two important points for engineers to consider.  The challenge for engineering is and will always be to somehow find what's significant in civilization.  What is it that we want and/or desire?  In this context our future is a race between good innovation and bad innovation.    At any given moment in time, it can be difficult for engineers to see if good is bettering bad.  The second point is the path of forward progress is sometimes less than straight.  The world is full of nonlinearities.  The smartphone could be an example of proper problem framing - but we also have given people what they want or need in the wrong order.

Engineering is always the big gamble - a gamble that the future will represent an improved version of the past.  The relative degree of improvement is what keeps engineers up at night.

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