There is this cartoon that explains why one would aspire to become an engineer. It appeals to the Bill-Gates-junior-type geek who wants to build cool stuff, rather than musing about the foundations of “stuff”. I sympathize with all of these three roles, also with the philosopher.
I have also been inclined to philosophy, and I was torn between studying physics or philosophy. I went for applied physics though, reasoning that anything closer to engineering will keep career opportunities in the real world intact. Yet I could still think about philosophy in my spare time as an engineer or scientist – I reasoned back then.
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.
It appears even less funny to me, extracting this message from the cartoon: Physicists and philosophers explore the foundations of the world. Engineers just utilize their results and make technical stuff better, which is at best fun because it propels you back to your childhood world of toys.
The world has been filled up with that better and better stuff, like plasma TVs and iPhones. We might get household appliances that will connect to the internet and use artificial intelligence to tailor their services to your needs. 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 physics, attracted by lasers – the cool stuff. Now I think we simply need less stuff – not just nicer user-interfaces to hide complicated technology, but less ubiquitous tech stuff. I am aware of the inconsistency of creating this post using nice cool web technology.