Guess I need to really get a life. Most – and here, I mean most – of the people I know happen to be engineers. Yeah, I mean the BE/B.Tech sort.
I know very few folks doing commerce and related courses. A couple of them doing pure sciences. And very, very few in Arts. And just, just ONE person pursuing fine arts. And anyway, these aren’t people I interact with on a daily basis – just old friends who I get together with once in a blue moon in the name of a reunion.
Around where I live – no, not my hostel, which is obviously full of engineering students – surrounded by software folks, and those who aren’t SEs are mechies. At home… my parents aren’t engineering graduates, but thanks to their jobs, most of their friends turn out to be engineers. Or at worst, architects.
The obvious fallout of all this is that my interaction with non-engineers is minimal. It reflects in conversation – we can convince you Halloween and Christmas are the same ‘coz oct31=dec25. We understand the universe and God in terms of operating systems. When someone switched from deathVocals to demureVoice, we said we were ‘amazed by the context-switch time’. The level of discomfort on a sleeper bus to Bangalore has to do with the passenger’s inertia. We try to analyze the ‘railway ticket booking and allotment algorithm’ while waiting in queues. And queues are where we crib about people not optimizing using queuing theory. It is not uncommon to hear of Rayleigh scattering being spoken of in context of us enjoying the sunset on the beach. And we are also the sort who commit very less to memory, for everything is available on the Net – it is commonplace to have a conversation like “Bridget Jones… what’s that guy’s name….” *wiki for ‘Bridget Jones film’* aha! Colin Firth… ” – so much that our idea of the ultimate terrorist attack would be to bomb the Google servers.
It’s reflected even on my blogroll – Of around 40 links, I have one economist pair, one espionage agent (but then, he established NTFO…) , one radio jockey (who I guess graduated in commerce), a whole bunch of linguists. – they teach computational linguistics, so guess they can come under ‘engineer’? – , one doc, and one lawyer…. and everyone else is an engineer.
When I first started blogging, I’d written a post mentioning an umbrella and its octagonal shape. The first feedback on that came from Karthik who analyzed why octagon is the most optimal shape for an umbrella. And on his and other IITian blogs, I’ve come across gems like “May the m.dv/dt be with you”, and “On this day of Nov 18, may you be curiosity personified” and kill the CAT. Urban legend goes that an unsuspecting non-engineer once asked an IITM student how to get to Marina from the campus, and was told to catch m buses first to reach <arbit destination in Chennai I can’t recollect> and then n buses from there to reach Santhome – and this hapless non-engineer patiently waited for a bus of the m-series to turn up.
Getting to the point, I find that most of my favorite blogs and op-eds are written by engineers. No, these aren’t just techie blogs about Data Mining, Information Retrieval or the latest advances in Toxicology or Pharmacology, but also about current affairs, religion, movies, food and humour.
I’m not saying engineers make the best writers – there are people like Chetan Bhagat and Sidin Vadukut – or even that non-engineers do – there are bloggers like Silverine and Rashmi Bansal, too. I’m not even saying the best bloggers are engineers – our very own Monkey Man is a notable exception.
Just that when I like a piece of writing, the probability that it was written by an engineer is very high. And vice versa, too.
I wonder why…. It could possibly be because:
- The number of engineers who have blogs are indiscriminately high compared to other professions. So by sheer numbers, engineers win. This might be because
- Engineers use computers and the Net more consistently and regularly than others, and so tend to have more Net-related hobbies
- Engineers are more jobless and blog more often.
- Others have other outlets of expressing themselves – more notably the electronic and print media, where being rational is a cardinal sin.
- I’m a frogInAWell; been with engineers and only engineers for too long, and hence appreciate only this way of thinking
- Engineers write well, reason well, organize their arguments well, and are more logical and convincing when compared to other professionals which could be because of
- Engineering education
- People who are good at stuff like this to start with all go into engineering
I used to be all for Mr. Shashi Tharoor a couple of years back. Not anymore.. I find his generalizations too broad and the foundations for his premises extremely faulty, apart from finding his conclusions and line of reasoning too prejudiced towards being politically correct – but then, he’s a BA in History.
Reading Arundati Roy – I don’t think she gained anything from her stint at the School of Planning and Architecture, other than a husband – gave me an insight into what I essentially find wrong with non-engineers and their writing – passion, command over language, verbosity and rhetoric is no substitute for substance, and any engineer can spot bilge when (s)he sees it, having put enough in answer papers and presentations. And the two engineering exceptions I mentioned before – they survive because of the inability of the rest to tell the difference between bilge and real hi-fi writing, and they know it
The USP of engineers is that apart from being very diverse, we can have a perspective on engineering issues as well as other issues, whereas others can’t quite, with the possible exception of economists (freakonomists?). And that’s what irks the rest.
Other professionals, like doctors and economists have always had a say in issues like development. As for other folks like historians and littérateurs, you folks can almost never prevent your own prejudices from seeping into your work and making a dog’s breakfast of it (and whattodo, your job is but like that) – but the world doesn’t quite realize that. And you journalists, the breed I used to want to belong to once upon a time, I’ve lost all respect for you lot in the past few years, and also in the past couple of weeks when I’ve seen press coverage of my college’s techfest become an op-ed with snatches of random informal conversation thrown in for good measure – Mr. Reporter, you never did get the whole spirit of Engineer, or engineers, did you?
For too long, engineers have been branded socially inept, verbally and grammatically challenged, ignorant of art, dispassionate, unfeeling and a host of other things that have made sure our point of view isn’t taken seriously. Hopefully, that’s undergoing change, aided by Blogosphere.
And also examples like Sujatha, Dr. Abdul Kalam, culfests of the IITs and NITs, Brian May, Jorge Cham, Randall Munroe, Nagesh Kukunoor, Rajeev Srinivasan, Shankar Mahadevan, Anil Kumble….. and maybe the engineers on my blogroll.
PS: For Spunky Monkey and those who read his blog – This is not a counter-post to his rant on medicine where he abuses engineers, and it’s not a continuation of my passionate comment on that post. Just something I’d been meaning to write since a long while.
PPS: Nothing to do with the post or why I wrote it, but there are some times in life when Ella Fitzgerald seems to have envisaged all that you’ll ever feel and wrote songs for the whole gamut of emotions you go through. This is one of those. And no, Lady Ella was not an engineer… she was a highschool dropout. But then, she was born and raised in a pragmatic, sensible, open-minded world, not one like ours where our thinking is defined and limited by the media, textbooks, and other symbols of modern mass-communication.