Engineers exhibit characteristics alien to most of society.
Honesty – Engineers are always honest in matters of technology and human relationships. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep them away from customers, romantic interests and other people who can’t handle the truth.
However, engineers sometimes bend the truth. They say things that sound like lies but technically are not because nobody could be expected to believe them. The complete list of engineer lies is listed below:
“I won’t change anything without asking you first.”
“I’ll return your hard-to-find cable tomorrow.”
“I have to have new equipment to do my job.”
“I’m not jealous of your new computer.”
Frugality – Engineers are notoriously frugal. This is not because of cheapness or mean spirit; it is simply because every spending situation is a problem in optimization; that is, “How can I escape this situation while retaining the greatest amount of cash?”
Concentration – If there is one trait that best defines an engineer it is the ability to concentrate on one subject to the complete exclusion of everything else in the environment. This sometimes causes engineers to be pronounced dead prematurely. Some funeral homes in high-tech areas have started checking resumes before processing the bodies. Anybody with a degree in engineering is propped up in the lounge for a few days just to see if he or she snaps out of it.
Risk Aversion – Engineers hate risk. They try to eliminate it whenever they can. This is understandable, given that when an engineer makes one little mistake, the media will treat it like it’s a big deal.
Examples of bad press for engineers:
Space station Mir
Hubble space telescope
The risk/reward calculation for engineers looks something like this:
RISK: Public humiliation and the death of thousands of innocent people.
REWARD: A certificate of appreciation in a handsome plastic frame.
Being practical people, engineers evaluate this balance of risks and rewards and decide that risk is not a good thing. The best way to avoid risk is by advising that any activity is technically impossible for reasons that are far too complicated to explain. If that approach is not sufficient to halt a project, then the engineer will fall back to a second line of defense: “It’s technically possible but it will cost too much.”
Editor’s note: Corporate communications has evolved to the point where it seems the highest and most common use of e-mail is the dissemination of jokes and humor stories to business acquaintances around the world. Power Engineering has collected a number of such communications from many anonymous e-mail sources and will present them in this space for your enjoyment. We welcome your contributions of engineering, technology or business related humorous pieces to [email protected], but please do not send copyrighted material.