There is a cartoon that tries to explain why one would like to become an engineer appealing to the Bill-Gates-junior-type nerd. Yet I like this cartoon so much, because I sympathize with all of these three roles. I am an experimental physicist, and I have been working in R&D and in engineering.
Nevertheless I have also been inclined to philosophy and I was torn between studying physics or philosophy. I went for physics and then in particular for applied physics reasoning that anything close to engineering will keep career opportunities in the real world intact. Yet I can still think about philosophy in my spare time as an engineer or scientist – I reasoned back then – but probably not the other way round (this is just a reflection on my rationale, not a general statement).
So in some sense the cartoon is not funny to me as I believe that we need all three perspectives, ideally more than one of them combined in a single person.
But it appears even less funny to me if I truly ask if I try to reduce the cartoon to the non-fun message, that is: Physicists and philosophers explore the foundations of the world, and engineers just utilize their results and make all kinds of stuff just better. Which is lot of fun and propels you back to your childhood world of toys.
Grown up in middle Europe more than twenty years after the end of World War II the world (and every day life) have been filled with that sort of better and better stuff, including plasma TVs, iPhones, and household appliances that will soon connect to the internet and use artificial intelligence to tailor their services to your needs. Adding a trite remark: It is this kind of stuff that is considered too complex by many users.
I once thought my true calling was to unveil the secrets of the universe (as a philosopher or physicist). Later I switched to applied physics, attracted by the cool stuff (lasers in particular). Now I actually think we simply need less stuff – not just nicer user-interfaces to hide complicated technology, but simply less ubiquitous tech stuff. And yes, I am aware of the inconsistency as I am creating this post using nice cool web technology 😉