Monday, November 15, 2004

c is for Chartered
It's over 11 years since I started down the road to the not so glamorous profession of engineer. Even though most people in the UK would associate the idea of an engineer with fixing cars or washing machines, it's the profession I chose and I'm glad that it is.

There has always been something about technology that has fascinated me, and from the earliest of ages it has been part of makeup. It was a logical progression to choose my role in life based on my passion and interest, even though I can hardly say that it is still my passion. Dealing with technology on a daily basis means it is now my responsibility.

I guess that's what makes today so significant, since this afternoon I sent in my application to have my level of responsibility formally recognised - to become a Chartered Engineer. Becoming Chartered is basically just a way of establishing your level of experience and competence, but it also means you can put the letters CEng after your name.

Now I'm not big on status symbols, and I'm not going to suddenly start thinking that I'm superhuman simply because some organisation blessed by the queen has given me permission to have a poncey business card. But what will make me glad about being Chartered is the knowledge that I am a part of a worldwide community of people who can shape the world we live in, who can open up new possibilities.

Man has always interacted with nature with inquisitiveness, creativity and imagination. In that sense engineering and technology are expressions of the same drives that give us art and religion. Like all these things, there is no denying that we don't always use our ability for the best. Environmental destruction and weapons that could blow the planet to smithereens are clearly not in our interest.

Still, having been to some of the poorest countries on the planet and seen desperate poverty in action, I can only thank and respect the ancestors who helped to drag us out of the mud, away from disease and hunger, and who built the systems of communication that now bring our species together.

Despite the fact these things were achieved on the back of greed and exploitation, and even though the benefits are not yet universal, there is much there that is admirable, and much that is beneficial to mankind.

In our time, we are seeing the need to shape what we have created into the life of the planet in a way that is sustainable, and which assures our happiness and dignity, not just our wealth. There are going to be a lot of challenges to overcome before we achieve this, but I for one am glad to be an engineer at the time when we face them.

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