Think like an Engineer

I am having a bit of ….. well, I am not exactly sure what to call it…
Fork in the road?
River shed?
Mid-life crisis?
Identity conflict?
Sea change?

What ever it’s called, I’m having it. Big time.
It’s causing me to think (for the first time?) about who and what I am.

You may remember from 2013, I am addicted to RSS and thus this New Yorker artical popped up in a thread from another feed (I don’t subscribe to the New Yorker RSS, just to be clear).
It’s a write up about the Ford Engineers that were involved with the Pinto (a car that raised some publicity with some accidents). The car is not important here.

This quote jumped out at me;

There is an old joke about an engineer, a priest, and a doctor enjoying a round of golf. Ahead of them is a group playing so slowly and inexpertly that in frustration the three ask the greenkeeper for an explanation. “That’s a group of blind firefighters,” they are told. “They lost their sight saving our clubhouse last year, so we let them play for free.”

The priest says, “I will say a prayer for them tonight.”

The doctor says, “Let me ask my ophthalmologist colleagues if anything can be done for them.”

And the engineer says, “Why can’t they play at night?”

The greenkeeper explains the behavior of the firefighters. The priest empathizes; the doctor offers care. All three address the social context of the situation: the fact that the firefighters’ disability has inadvertently created conflict on the golf course. Only the engineer tries to solve the problem.

Almost all engineering jokes—and there are many—are versions of this belief: that the habits of mind formed by the profession enable engineers to see things differently from the rest of us. “A pessimist sees the glass as half empty. An optimist sees the glass as half full. The engineer sees the glass as twice the size it needs to be.” To the others, the glass is a metaphor. Nonsense, the engineer says. The specifications are off. He doesn’t give free rein to temperament; he assesses the object. These jokes, like many of the jokes people tell about themselves, are grievances. The engineer doesn’t understand why the rest of us can’t make sense of the world the way he does.

My family likes to make endless jokes about how I either don’t have a heart, or that it is there, but that it is stone cold.

It’s a very long read (as it seems most New Yorker articles are), and I don’t want you to spend the time reading it (unless you are interested in the Pinto). But, I do want to throw one last quote your way…..

You and I would feel safer in a car that met the 301 standard. But the engineer, whose aim is to maximize safety within a series of material constraints, cannot be distracted by how you and I feel. If you are busy empathizing with blind firefighters—if your goal is to treat them with the same consideration you would sighted golfers—how do you get them to consider that everyone might be better off if they played at night? The grievance at the heart of that joke is that we wrongly think of the engineers’ attitude as callous, when to their mind, in their focus on identifying the real problem, they are the opposite of callous.

So. Bottom line. I am not an engineer. I don’t think like that. Or do I?
Does it matter either way?
Certainly my family wishes I was more emphatic, but why? What’s it in for them or me for me to actually care?
Often when talking with my Dad, I mention my desire to ‘care less’, to switch off, to just get the job done, what ever job that is, and not be so passionate about it.

I think the core of the problem is that I seem to care more about tech (gadgets) than people.

This comes across as heartless, or uncaring, which is not true… I do care…. I just think what is getting confused here is passion.

Just because I am more passionate about getting a Raspberry Pi VPN client configured than spending time hanging out at the pub does not mean I don’t care……

But what do I know.