Engineering Isn’t About Costs

Once upon a time, the job of the engineer was to minimize cost.

Engineers calculated things like

  • How thick does the concrete on this bridge deck need to be to ensure it won’t break?
  • What’s the maximum wind speed this house can endure?
  • What should the shape of this wind turbine blade be to maximize efficiency and minimize material?

Today, computers can answer questions like these. So why do we still have engineers? What do they do?

Engineers solve problems. That involves creativity, innovation, and passion. These have always been a part of engineering, but as computers take over more of the heavy mathematical lifting formerly done by humans, they’ll become even more important.

Of course, understanding costs is a crucial and often difficult part of engineering. But if we frame an engineers’ role as being all about reducing costs, we’re likely to get small, incremental changes. If we ask engineers to think bigger, like about what customers want, we’ll get bigger, better solutions.

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