Several years ago Henry Petroski wrote an interesting article on the importance of engineering versus science in achieving change. Here is an excerpt:
|Most people who aren't scientists or engineers seem to think that science and engineering are the same. They're not. Science seeks to understand the world as it is; only engineering can change it.|
|That's not what most high-school teachers or even college professors tell their science students. But the truth is that full scientific understanding isn't always necessary for technological advancement. Take steam engines: They were pumping water out of mines long before a science of thermodynamics was developed to explain how they worked. The engines were what prompted researchers to look into the nature of steam power in the first place.|
|This may make me a heretic, but I'll take the argument a step farther: Science can actually get in the way of technology. In the 19th century, some scientists were convinced that even the largest steamship couldn't carry enough coal for transatlantic trips. Only when skeptical engineers designed ships that made this supposedly impossible task possible were the naysaying scientists forced to reconsider.|
For those of us in the telecom/datacom space, Petroski's article reinforces the importance of what we are working on. Our primary goal is creating a successful business. The way that we will do that is by driving the continual improvement in the ability of people to communicate, both in terms of lower costs and higher bandwidth. That's the value we as engineers bring to the party.