Why Has Engineering Fallen From Grace?

You don't see many engineers in movies, said structural engineer Tristram Carfrae, and when you do, they're often "portrayed as socially inadequate mechanics, supporting the vision and ideas of others." That, according to Carfrae, is how a lot of people see engineers (case in point: do you see Iron Man's Tony Stark as a genius entrepreneur or a brilliant engineer?)

But why? Why has the engineering profession fallen from grace?

How did we get to this position? The panel discussion started by considering whether the Second World War was a turning point in the perception of engineers. It asked if seeing engineers put their skills to such destructive effect changed people’s opinions of them. I had to agree, particularly in regards to the dropping of the H-bomb at the end of the war.

Compare this with the perception of engineers during the industrial revolution. We think of engineers from that time as part of a great leap forward – distinctive heroes with distinctive personas like Isambard Kingdom Brunel doing great things. I suspect this has a lot to do with the fact that characters like Brunel were public relations-savvy entrepreneurs as well as being brilliant engineers. [...]

In building engineering, the Western world currently has around ten times more engineers than it does architects. But I’d be willing to bet you can find at least ten times more comments and opinions in the media from architects than from engineers. We have to close this gap.

Another related issue is our background in mathematics. We’re examined by questions that ask us to find the single, definitive answer – all other answers being wrong. Being trained to solve puzzles means we’re less comfortable dealing with more subjective areas where one solution may be as good as another; where it comes down to our opinion. 

Read the rest over at Carfrae's blog post: Link

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Interesting analysis but probably wrong. Movies are typically written by humanities grads, and they know more about storytelling than anything science-related. In a typical movie (or TV episode), they get the science wrong, they get psychology wrong, they get the technology wrong, they get "computer hacking" wrong, they perpetuate long-discredited pseudoscience and quackery, they usually make the scientist/engineer/mathematician to be less than honorable, and they have a very negative and ill-informed view of geek culture.

Even a supposedly "pro-science" show like CSI suffers from a lot of the problems I listed above. There is no grand conspiracy to attack engineers or scientists. It's that TV and movie writers don't know any better and they don't care. "The truth should never get in the way of a good story."
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