Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Unsung Heroes

Many folk, myself included, find this little Dilbert clip hilarious. The question is "Why?" I've always been interested in humour and the reasons why certain people find certain things funny. It seems to me that the main reason people find this video humorous relates to the surprisingly low social standing that engineers have compared to other professions.

This chart shows the IQ ranges for a wide variety of occupations. As a medic, I smugly noted that "Medical occupations: MD and equivalent" occupy the top slot, but as you can see engineers of various types are not far behind. I don't have the figures to hand, but I suspect that, on a global basis, engineers are paid significantly less than doctors.

Much of the hi tech world that we take for granted---the machines we use, the roads we drive on, the internet we enjoy---owe their existence to engineers of various sorts. So why do we treat these guys as figures of fun? Why is Dilbert's mum so upset that he is destined to join their ranks? Maybe it is something to do with the name? The term "engineer" conjures up an image of rolled-up sleeves and hairy arms covered with machinery oil.

Perhaps engineers need to call themselves something else to try and get the respect from us all that they undoubtedly deserve?