Sunday, October 12, 2008

How an engineer thinks and why I am beginning to dread it

I am writing this post perhaps to get something off the back of my mind that has been bothering me for quite a while and to explain clearly on what I meant on my previous post. Not long ago, my other half and I were musing about how much our way of thinking had changed ever since we entered varsity. She is currently working as an engineer in the IT industry and majored in electrical engineering. So in what ways have our way of thinking change ? It seems that our way of thinking has become more analytical and systematic and sometimes we often joked about how we can draw comparisons between us and the way a robot thinks :D

Let me try my best to explain how an engineer would probably think. For example, one is tasked to design a bicycle and bring it into mass production. So these are the thoughts that will probably go through his mind.

- Which is the cheapest and strongest material I can use ?
- What is the fastest time I can bring it to mass production ?
- Which design is the most efficient ?
- Which production process will bring about the least amount of wastage ?

As for the flow of thoughts, probably it will go something like that; design of the bicycle done ? Checked and move on to next task. Analysis of the design done ? Checked and move on to next task. Material chosen ? Checked and move on to next task and the list just goes on.

Now let me share on what goes through my mind when I was thinking about the research report.

- How to write the report concisely and in details without it being too taxing on the group ?
- How much time should be allocated to this portion of the report so that we can have enough time to move on to other essential tasks ?
- What is the most efficient way of doing our allocated task ?
- How can we analyze our report properly so that we can avoid doing more drafts which can help us to save time for other essential tasks ?

I hope you guys can see the similarities now. My education has influenced the way I think in ways so subtle that I have never realized throughout these years in school until recently and part of me is beginning to dread the way I think now. Maybe these differences can be due to the character of each unique individual but I do not think that I am too far off the line by suggesting that our education do influence the way we think.

To be able to think like this and being analytical is not such a bad thing after all perhaps. I am just slightly chagrined at how this way of thinking has permeate certain spheres of my life and change the way I perceive things now.


Yu Ming said...

Dear Wei Kwan,

First, let me say that as a fellow engineer to be myself, I too dread the day I would think like a robot. A little too often for our own good, my friends and I joke about how even our sense of humor has morphed beyond the 'normal' range. It is true that engineers are obsessed with maximizing efficiency and minimizing wastage. At times it sends a chill down my spine to think that someday I may cross into the dark side, severing my touch towards reality and losing my affinity towards humanoid behaviors. Won't you agree that being too objective does make it difficult to empathize with the erratic emotions of others?

Brad Blackstone said...

It all sounds very simple to me, Wei Kwan, as if you are keyed in on gaining the most effective results in the shortest period of time.

Thanks for putting it into a fascinating context. Great window this is, allowing us to peer inside your brain!