With great power comes great responsibilities

14th April 2021


Are engineers today an essential part of our society? Are they as valuable as lawyers or doctors or politicians? In my opinion, the answer is "yes" to all of these questions but, in this case, the explanation is more fascinating than the answer itself.

Application of first principals

Application of first principles is one of the first lessons taught to every engineer at the beginning of their academic career. Thinking from first principles means breaking down a problem into atomic problems and applying the fundamental principles of science and logic to solve those atomic problems and work your way up to the actual problem itself. Therefore, engineers are one of the only breeds that can cut emotions off any problem and be able to see the problem for what it actually is instead of what it seems. It is also because of this constant habit of applying first principles everywhere that people have a notion of engineers being antisocial and rude.

There is a reason why we see engineers in all kinds of professions including, and not limited to, stand up comedy, politics, practising law and medicine. The application of first principles in solving a problem is what engineers are good at, and it helps them excel at whatever profession they are in. But, as the great saying goes "with great power comes great responsibility".

What are engineers busy doing?

There are a few engineers trying to solve the problems of landing a rover on Mars, curing cancer using machine learning or connecting the human population together using the internet. There are a whole bunch of engineers working on problems to push the human race forward. But, what are the rest of them busy doing? Making money.

Don’t get me wrong, desiring money and working for it is not bad. Engineers earn much more money in the early stages of their careers than people in any other professions, and I believe they 100% deserve it. Today, most of the parents in India want their child to become a software engineer or an engineer in general. Ever wondered why? Money. They want their child to get rich quickly when they grow up. Notice, they don't care about Mars or cancer or human social interactions, all they care about is money. And in all fairness, they are right because which parent would not want their child to get a good life, but at what cost?

Most of the engineers today are self-centred and greedy. All they care about is what they are currently working on to (a) satisfy their ego and (b) show it off in their resumes. They care about how much money they are making and/or how much equity they are getting from the startup that they have just joined. One of the best problem-solving breeds is not thinking about the most crucial problems at all. Even in colleges, engineers are taught how to solve algorithmic problems and operating system concepts but not how they can be applied in real life and how they can improve the world we all are living in. That's the problem. Today's engineers are living in a bubble, a bubble that is filled with wealth and luxury but almost has nothing to do with the outside world. Think I'm wrong? Look at what is happening in the world right now, everyone's livelihood has been affected due to the Coronavirus pandemic except for software engineers. One may argue that the physical world is ineffective to software, but how many tech billionaires or even millionaires have donated their wealth to the ones who need it in this period of crisis? I'm not talking about socialism, I'm talking about textbook humanity.

Do something - no matter the scale

Engineers have this skill to create something from nothing, software is literally something out of nothing - it is intangible. We need to use this skill to improve the very world we live in. We need to stop serving the privileged by creating things that don't have any effect on the real world. I’m not talking about quitting jobs and going full-Gandhi mode, but we can at least have a few good side projects where we’re helping the ones who actually need our help.

We have great power but we need to be more responsible as well. Blaming politicians for everything is not going to solve anything, it will just serve more content for the news media. Politicians don’t run a country, they are just good at crowdsourcing. We, the people, run a country and we are the only ones responsible for improving it.

Stay humble and dream big!