Engineers and engineering make society possible. Engineers figure out how to do more with less.
Link to FT Exploring Home Page Engineer's are paid to think.

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To Engineer is Human


   Survival Made SimpleTrucks designed by engineers allow one man to move thousands of pounds of freight.
     There's only a few basic things we humans really must have to stay alive. First, and most basic, are water and food. After that, if the air is cold, or if the local climate is a little too wet or sunny (almost everywhere), we need clothes and shelter. Thirdly, for most animals, it is important to keep other animals from using them for food. Being food for another animal is something that you can usually do only once.

     Survival seems simple enough. But somehow it turns out to be difficult for most animals to reach old age, or even adolesence.

    It's been a long time since most of us have had to worry much about being eaten by other animals. Our worst enemies are probably the little viruses and bacteria that make us sick and, of course, the most dangerous and unpredictable of all the big fierce animals, ourselves. Aside from germs there is probably nothing that has killed as many humans as humans.
Engineer's are paid to think.
People used to tell Bob he thinks too much. Now they pay him to do that.

One operator can move a whole lot of people with an engineer designed  trolley.
One driver can move a whole lot of people with one of these.

Early engineers designed the plow to increase a farmer's productivity.
A plow that would only work in

Engineers think of ways to do more with less.
Baseball players can play baseball because engineering has allowed someone else to provide their needs.
Right then Barry decided to start sharing his salary with the engineers that made it possible for him to play baseball for a living.
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You have to be open minded to be an engineer.
"This is the way it's always been."
  Early engineers invented spears and throwing sticks.     These days most of us are safe from big fierce predators, but each of us still has to get food, water, clothes, and shelter. Yet very few of us grows or kills our own food. Almost none of us ever has to go down to the river for a drink of water. Some people build their own house but not many. And the same goes for clothes. Some of us dabble in doing some of these basic survival tasks for ourselves, but virtually no one does everything, or comes even close.

Making More Than You Need
     The reason we don't have to do all these basic survival things for ourselves is because somewhere someone else has made more of them than they need. Somewhere a farmer raised way more wheat than he could use. He sold all this "excess" wheat to a bread company somewhere. The employees of the bread company used the wheat to make way more bread than they could eat in several lifetimes. This excess bread was put into big trucks that carried way more bread than the driver could ever eat to lots of stores in lots of towns. The reason all these people can make and move more of this stuff than they need is because someone somewhere invented methods and tools that allowed them to be more productive.

Its Not New
     This practice of people making more of something than they can use has been going on for thousands of years. Somewhere, a long time ago, a clever little farmer invented a way for his or her friends and family to plant a whole lot more seeds than they used to be able to plant. This meant they could grow a lot more plants than they used to be able to grow. We now call that clever invention a plow. The plow caught on. We're still using them but now they're made of stainless steel and many of them at one time are pulled behind tractors with more power and lots more speed than several hundred horses.

Doo-Dads — the Real "Driving Force" of History
     The plow was a significant event in the history of mankind. Much more significant than Hitler or Rome or even Marilyn Monroe (though it helped them to become what they were). The plow, and many other doo-dads and devices like it, allowed humankind to become a creator — a creator of art, of music, of writing and reading, of sports, of movies, of airplanes and cars, of organized religions, of governments and laws, of science and industry, of schools and teachers, of countless other non-basic-survival related occupations, of efficient weapons, of pollution — in short, a creator of civilization.

     The clever inventer of the plow had never heard the word engineering but that's what he was doing.

It's Not New, But We're Better at It Now
     It's not new, but in the last couple of centuries we've gotten a whole lot better at making more than we need. When we're really good at it we say we're "industrialized". People can now make more things than they can use in many lifetimes. In many factories they make more things in a day or an hour than they can use in many lifetimes. In these "modern" times we have invented a specialty called engineering. Now we pay people money to spend all their time figuring out ways to make ourselves more and more productive. These modern engineers usually take many years of difficult college courses to learn to use sophisticated science and math tools to develop their ideas. As a result progress is fast now, very fast. It only takes a small portion of our population (in the industrialized countries) to make the basic survival stuff for the rest of the people. That means the rest of us have to find something else to do.

The Creation of Specialties
     Most of us think it's good that most of us don't have to spend all our time acquiring the survival basics. We choose to do something other than raise crops, make fabric and sew clothes, or build shelters.

     Engineering is the reason musicians and actors don't have to spend all their time growing or killing their own food. They like to say, "That's show business!" But they ought to say, "That's civilization!" — and "Thank you very much Mr. or Ms. Engineer for making it possible for me to spend all my time making music instead of bread".

     The clever little inventions of engineer-thinkers are the reason Mark McGuire can spend his off season weight-lifting and perfecting his swing instead of storing up food, clothes, and fire-wood. You're welcome Mark.

     It is the engineer part of the human brain that has created civilization. Whether you think that's a good thing, a bad thing, of just a thing, you should understand what a huge thing it is and how it works. That's what this section is all about.

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