The Present and Future of Engineers By Nick Chavez November 12, 2021 Change text size: [ A+ ] / [ A- ] Email this page Posted in: Class, Reimagining Society, Economy, US | No comments Please Help ZNet Source: Brooklyn Rail I am an engineer. Recently I attended a trade show focused on plastics manufacturing. Like most other attendees, my coworkers and I were in attendance to stay in-the-know on the state of the plastics industry as it specifically relates to the products we engineer for our employer. The convention floor was littered with highly-articulable robotic arms, lumbering injection molders, adaptable inline packagers, cutting-edge SLA printers, lightning-fast bottle fillers, and all other manner of manufacturing robotics whose starry-eyed salespeople wanted nothing more than a slice of our employer’s capex budget. Just as numerous were the booths advertising—at varying levels of explicitness—access to cheap manufacturing labor. Boosters of industrial development in certain countries detailed how our manufacturing needs can be met cheaply and effectively by highly-skilled but low-paid workers in Latin America or the Caribbean. Chinese and Taiwanese companies touted manufactured goods at bargain prices with the implication that it is not necessarily the product that is meant to draw your attention, but rather access to inexpensive high-tech labor. North American and European companies assured us that their global networks of plants, be they in Malaysia, Costa Rica, or the American rust belt, could meet our technical, financial, and logistical needs. The diversity of messages had a clear unity: augment your manufacturing bottom line by exercising control over the workforce building your product; hire the most exploitable workers and rationalize their labor via robotics. The common theme across the convention was business models that hinge on the control of laborers and their actions. This is the essence of modern engineering. Subjecting engineering to Marxist analysis yields complex results. Most engineers are proletarians: we perform labor in exchange for a wage, which we need in order to afford a comfortable life in the global capitalist system. Despite this, the origins of modern engineering lie just as much in Taylorist factory management as in the sweaty wage labor of the factory floor. In the social totality that is capitalism, we are simultaneously dominated by the imperatives of capital’s abstract logic while also concretizing this abstract domination against masses of other workers. This poses a difficult question for communist engineers: whose side are we on? To further complicate matters, communists must also consider not only the role that engineers play in capitalism but what roles they might play in the revolutionary dissolution of capitalism, and in the establishment of a communist society. These questions are worth considering now, even as the real movement for a new society is only just now resuming the historical course from which it was derailed in the course of the previous century. There are limits to what useful conclusions can be gained by stroking one’s chin; the actual answers will only be determined by this movement in the course of its action to abolish the present state of things. Within these limits, my aim here is to identify, in broad strokes, the dynamics that shape modern engineering and to use these concepts to speculate as to what the future may hold as it emerges from the chrysalis of the present. Engineering and the Division of Labor: Productive Activity Today Capitalist automation is historically unique in its obsession with a generalized reduction in labor time per commodity produced. Labor time per unit is reduced by reducing the complexity of the tasks a worker performs during the manufacturing process. This reduction in task complexity involves a division of labor where each worker performs a smaller set of tasks, each now so simple that they can be performed with little or no risk of production errors. By removing the necessity of complex actions from the worker and placing that responsibility on the significantly more accurate, precise, reliable, and docile machine, the expertise required of the worker is drastically reduced. The CNC lathe, injection molder, and robotic laser welder of today perform the same reduction and simplification (per commodity unit) that the spinning jenny, steam engine, and threshing machine of earlier eras did. While large numbers of laborers are stripped of the need for advanced technical knowledge (and the bargaining power that accompanies it), it is not as if this expertise disappears. It is simply concentrated in the much smaller proportion of workers who design and configure the machines and processes to create the product. Not only is the expertise on the specific product concentrated in fewer hands, but new expertise in the design, creation, and maintenance of these machines and processes is required. Further expertise in advancing the scientific principles from which further advancements in productive forces are conjured also becomes more and more imperative. The domain of engineering is this concentration of technical expertise among those who do not use the machines to directly produce goods but do the intellectual labor of developing these machines and processes. Concentration of technical expertise does not happen simply for its own sake, however. The point of capitalist enterprise is the generation of profit. The work of “rationalizing” the productive process implies that said processes become more rational, but more rational for whom, or by what measure? Rationality is defined here chiefly in terms of money obtained for company shareholders. While it is typically not the responsibility of engineers to manage company finances, the work of engineers involved in commodity production is ultimately in service of the company’s bottom line, either through generating revenue or through eliminating costs. Engineers involved in commodity production accumulate technical expertise while stripping it from ordinary laborers because the concentration of expertise is critical for the perpetual sophistication of the means of production, which itself is crucial for the continued generation of profit. It is precisely at this juncture of the technical with the financial that the wide-reaching social effects of engineers are most apparent. Engineers involved in the commodity production process can be roughly divided into two categories: those who design and develop the commodity itself, and those who develop and oversee the manufacturing process that brings the commodity to physical fruition and market. The latter group, whose titles or job descriptions may be something like “Manufacturing Engineer,” “Process Engineer,” or “Industrial Engineer,” are the ones performing work most visibly perpetuating the dynamic of polarizing technical expertise. What these engineers specifically do varies based on the type of commodity being produced, the specific operations and culture of the company in question, and their particular job title. This includes but is not limited to: creating work instructions, developing written standards, performing statistical analysis on time expenditure or material scrappage, selecting and qualifying machinery for usage by laborers, defining processes for the laborer to follow, designing jigs and fixtures to speed up production or improve repeatability, managing quality control, troubleshooting production problems/stoppages, coordinating with external suppliers, tracking materials, advocating for ease of manufacturability to design engineers, and training laborers. These engineers have a close proximity to the production process itself, and thus are proximal to the juncture where the abstract needs of capital meet the concrete subjugation of the laborer, technician, or operator. Proliferation of mechanization and automation strips expertise and know-how from the laborers as a necessary byproduct of the simplification of their work in the quest for profit. This expertise, now concentrated in the hands of engineers, is deployed by them to ensure that the maximum amount of labor value is extracted from each unit of labor time expended by the worker, which materializes in a maximization of extracted money per unit of labor time. This usually does not appear in this straightforward fashion to the engineers and laborers involved, however, but is generally understood in terms of “reducing waste” (either wasted material or wasted time), “simplifying things,” or otherwise “continuous improvement”/“kaizen” as it is known in Lean manufacturing jargon. Engineers in the other group, who may be called something like “Design Engineer,” “R&D Engineer,” “Product Engineer,” or “Systems Engineer,” play a more subtle yet just as critical role in the maintenance of the technical division of labor. In some industries this group also includes scientists whose expertise is needed for product development. These engineers may not have their hands directly in the productive process, and thus are not directly responsible for carrying out capital’s domination of laborers, technicians, and operators, but they perpetuate that dynamic from a distance in a more abstract fashion. The specific character of an item produced for sale in a capitalist economy has both a concrete component (its practical utility/application) and an abstract component (its utility to the capitalist: that it can be sold for money). It is easy to view the concrete use of a commodity and its abstract sellability as lying on (qualitative) orthogonal axes that intersect at the item in question, but this abstraction misses the larger picture. In reality the concrete and abstract characters of a commodity are more akin to two strands woven together to form a rope, in which the two fundamental aspects of the commodity form an intertwined whole. A commodity only has abstract value, which is to say, is sellable, because it has a concrete, non-abstract, use. A pair of shoes sells because people can and want to wear them. An item would not be manufactured if the capitalist did not expect it to sell, and commodities only sell if somebody wants to buy them, which only happens if the commodity serves some purpose or fills a need for the buyer. The fact that an item’s utility is crucial to its value at market is obvious, but the determining relationship abstract value has to the concrete utility of a commodity is less so. After all, produced goods were certainly useful prior to the historical generalization of commodity production and the economy-mediating abstract value that accompanied it, so how can abstract value play a determining role in the concrete character of a commodity? To the capitalist, the most important aspect of a commodity is that it can be sold for money. Unlike the engineer, who is primarily concerned with spending money to turn materials into a commodity, the shareholder of a firm is concerned with using commodities to turn money into a larger sum of money. Profit is not just the consequence of producing a commodity but the reason for producing it in the first place. The owner of capital must deploy said capital in service of generating profit, and thus accumulate more capital, unless they want to be outcompeted by other capitalists. Insofar as capital is invested in the production of commodities, the creation of the commodity must be undertaken in ways amenable to the needs of capital, which is to say, ways that maximize revenue and minimize costs in order to attain the largest profit margin. The needs of capital are inscribed all over commodities, whether they are consumer goods or products sold from one layer of industry to another. Some common and visible examples of this include planned obsolescence in consumer electronics, the use of inferior (cheaper) materials, and incompatibilities between functionally similar commodities due to proprietary differences. The dynamic is deeper than this, though. All commodities that are manufactured must first be designed, and commodities must be designed with the manufacturing process in mind. A good design engineer is familiar with the processes required for their design to be manufactured and can thus minimize the amount of money spent on manufacturing costs without compromising the usefulness of the product. A machined part requiring fewer setups on a milling machine, a plastic component shaped so that a maximal quantity can be made from a single injection mold, and an electrical assembly designed to take advantage of automated component placement all require the design engineer to understand the manufacturing process to a sufficient level to take maximum advantage of the rationalized production processes developed by manufacturing, industrial, and process engineers. A Taste of Our Own Medicine To be an engineer in commodity production is to play a dual role in capitalism. The deployment of science and technology to streamline industrial work is unambiguously tied to lowered wages, decreased workplace autonomy, workplace boredom and tedium, and an overall reduction in quality of life for huge numbers of workers. In this sense, engineers are allied with management, and abstractly aligned with capital as a social force. Engineers, however, are also workers. We work in exchange for money, which we seek in order to meet the same needs everybody else has. Since our work is ultimately in service to profit, we are not immune to the rationalizing dynamics we inflict on other workers. Engineering labor is divided into different disciplines and gradations, with the result that one is often assigned work that is repetitive, dull, and structured outside the control of the engineer performing it. This is in addition to the low-grade social violence inherent in work, such as mandatory overtime (often without additional pay), stagnating wages, layoffs, frustrating commutes, invasive time-tracking, abusive bosses, and incompetent or hostile HR personnel. The rationalization of engineering work is undeniably driven by capital’s profit-seeking logic. This logic, not only in engineering but in other aspects of society as well, often undermines itself by cultivating emergent phenomena that can undo the social structures that spawned them in the first place. It is exceedingly common for engineers of all kinds to feel that their work is hampered by the organizational structure or dynamics of the company they work for, especially in larger companies where there is a stricter division of engineering labor and labor in general. A rigid division between engineering duties (e.g. electrical design vs. mechanical design, or process engineering vs. quality control engineering) ensures that engineering time is spent in ways that management has strong control over, which is necessary for the completion of large projects involving many people. This division of labor, however, simultaneously undermines a corporation’s ability to extract the highest quality labor from its engineers. It is very rare for an engineer to need only to understand a small area of knowledge to do their job properly. The overwhelming majority of engineers strongly benefit from familiarity with the other engineering duties involved in the production of a commodity, especially those adjacent to theirs in the production process. A research engineer/scientist must have a sufficient understanding of the practical needs of the field in order to ensure that their research and findings are useful and applicable. A design engineer must understand enough about the manufacturing processes and application of their design to ensure that it is cost efficient to manufacture and can be utilized as intended. Likewise, the manufacturing engineer and the applications engineer cannot do their jobs properly if they do not understand the design intent of the commodity they work with. A manufacturing engineer must ensure that the fabrication they oversee is capable of yielding commodities that work as intended, and the applications engineer cannot best develop a product application for the customer if they do not have a full understanding of the capabilities and limits of the design. The best way for these engineers to understand the pertinent details of each other’s work is to be directly involved with each other’s work, so that they can develop a strong intuitive understanding of it. This poses a problem for management: allowing engineers too much freedom and autonomy makes it difficult to control the character and timeline of what is produced, but chaining everybody to their cubicle and requiring all communication to pass through management will quickly kill both the effectiveness and morale of engineers. A good manager is capable of balancing this tension; however, the division of labor makes it difficult for engineers to interact meaningfully with other departments, especially at larger companies. Herein lies the key to engineering’s dysfunction under capitalism: capital is simultaneously the driving factor behind engineering work and the primary obstruction to doing that work well. Engineers and Ideology In 2021 virtually nobody lives outside of the influence of capitalism. Even those whose labor is not fully integrated into capital’s rationality must still live in a world dominated by capitalist markets. After hundreds of years of capital terraforming the social landscape of human experience generally, and work in particular, it should be uncontroversial to suggest that capitalism is at the very core of engineering ideology, except that there is no such thing as a single “engineering ideology,” as the “engineering experience” is incredibly vast and diverse. While the tendencies described in this section are an outgrowth of global production dynamics, the details are more specific to engineering in highly-developed industrial economies, with which I am personally more familiar. For all the diversity in subjectivity of individual engineers, the actual work performed by modern engineers is inextricable from the logic of capital. Despite lofty rhetoric from Silicon Valley grifters, engineers don’t do what we do to bring about positive change or to save the world or any other naive platitudes, even if the engineer in question earnestly believes they are doing so. As demonstrated earlier, engineering is mostly an elaborate social machine that commands vast amounts of people, intellect, labor, and power to serve the accumulation of profit through the creation and sale of commodities. Engineers cannot shape the world through the power of good ideas and clever engineering; we shape the world according to the needs of capital. Even engineers working at non-profits or independently in their garages cannot operate without money, and even then must operate in a world shaped around capitalism. This centrality of capital to engineering is critical for understanding what shapes the ideology of any particular engineer. The privileged position that engineers hold with respect to a large portion of the workforce often manifests itself in a technocratic elitism among engineers. The division of technical labor between “skilled” and “unskilled” both creates and justifies the notion that engineers are intellectually superior to other groups of laborers. This polarization of expertise is not an iron law, but rather a tendency. Operators, line workers, and technicians most certainly accumulate expertise and know-how in the hands-on process of commodity manufacturing. Engineers who are good at their jobs learn to respect and consult the expertise that develops at the point of production, as it makes the rationalization of “unskilled” work easier if the engineer understands precisely what they are rationalizing. The macro-societal effects of this rationalization process are pretty opaque to those actively participating in it. Instead, this takes the appearance of improving efficiency, reducing error, eliminating waste, and saving money. Overt hostility to the “unskilled” laborers whose work is being rationalized by engineers is typically frowned upon, but the implication behind all these otherwise positive-sounding descriptors (efficiency is good, right?) is that “unskilled” laborers are an undesired part of the manufacturing process, and any success in reducing their numbers or their agency is a success for the engineer and for the company. Counterintuitively, it is not uncommon for the engineers most responsible for the rationalization of other workers’ labor to be the most personally friendly with manufacturing staff who occupy “lower” positions in the manufacturing hierarchy. These engineers, typically manufacturing engineers or process engineers, do best when they have a close understanding of the manufacturing process and the human-level activity that comprises it. Many engineers in this position themselves have performed such work either as part of their training or as part of their work duties prior to working as an engineer. Even if these engineers have never occupied the positions held by the workers whose labor they must rationalize, simple proximity to these workers during operating hours can often create a sense of camaraderie, as the manufacturing and operations departments are often pitted against other departments in a way that resembles a bizarre departmental nationalism where antagonisms between “classes” (laborer vs. engineer) are suppressed in the name of antagonism between “nations” (departments). This is obviously a very crude analogy but what inconveniences manufacturing laborers (material shortages, accelerated timelines, unexpected changes, quality control issues) also tends to inconvenience the engineers responsible for rationalizing their labor. This particular unity between manufacturing laborers and associated engineers can often be just as influential on an engineer’s individual ideological schemas as the inherently antagonistic rationalization process. Engineers are not solely conduits through which capital dominates factory line workers. Our own status as wage laborers comes with plenty of subjectivity-building characteristics in the face of capital. Work culture varies drastically based on locale, industry, and even individual place of employment. For many engineers paid a salary rather than an hourly wage there is no legal protection against their employer demanding more hours of work than the standard work week with no extra compensation. The division of labor among engineers often creates incredibly boring work situations where very little of an engineer’s talent is put to use. Engineers often find our ability to perform good work hampered by departmental boundaries, company bureaucracy, lack of cross-functional expertise, and other phenomena rooted in capitalist division of labor. While engineers tend to be quite well compensated for our work, compared to most other professions, many companies refuse to keep engineer salaries competitive after several years of employment. Some industries undergo cycles of boom and bust that involve laying off large quantities of engineers with little warning. The criticality of engineers to commodity production means that engineers as a group will almost assuredly never face the levels of abjection to which most of the rest of the proletariat is subjected. Despite this, engineers are still capable of experiencing the antagonism between our position as workers and the position of our bosses as agents of capital. The ideological facets of engineering work are similar to capital itself in that both are abstract systems of self-perpetuating logic that perpetuate themselves and also undermine themselves by the same mechanisms. The way our work fits into the needs of capital is what keeps us employed but can often make that employment miserable. The application of scientific knowledge to the modification of our world is the heart of engineering labor. This type of work often demands creativity, intellectual curiosity, technical affinity, independent thinking, and passion. Creativity and initiative that directly help the company bottom line are typically encouraged. A sense of curiosity and autodidacticism are not only helpful to engineers but often requisites, as the assimilation of unfamiliar and technically challenging concepts and skill sets is frequently necessary in the workplace. Engineering work often forges a can-do mentality where any problem can be solved with a methodical approach, the application of scientific principles, and the ability to learn the relevant information. Though these attitudes are typically considered desirable, they are the flip side of other common engineering behaviors that are typically met with disdain by others. Many engineers believe that their ability to approach technical problems methodically at work is easily transferred to other areas where they lack expertise. While it is true that a methodical approach and broad scope of technical knowledge is frequently useful outside the workplace, this attitude often veers into rank scientism. A tendency to collapse complex problems into quantifiable variables manipulable by mathematical or scientific approaches very easily destroys the important nuance that makes such problems so difficult to solve in the first place. This is most apparent with large-scale societal problems wherein it is not uncommon for engineers, with their absolute lack of expertise on the relevant matters, to propose solutions that treat social systems as made up of isolatable and independently manipulable parts, reducing the factors involved to a level of simplicity no longer adequate to solving the problem at hand. The ability and authority to solve technical problems often breeds an arrogance where those without engineering or scientific training are not considered to be as intelligent or capable as those with such training. In university engineering programs it is not uncommon for non-STEM majors to be the objects of mocking jokes, and in the workplace this attitude can take aim at non-engineering departments. These are all stereotypes of engineers, of course, and it would be absurd to think they apply to every engineer, but stereotypes generally don’t arise from nowhere. Fundamentally an individual engineer’s mind is just as likely as that of any other individual to be ideologically unpredictable and idiosyncratic. Within the subjectivity of one who is both an agent and object of capital, there exists plenty of room for sympathy to communism. For the engineers who desire to apply their technical expertise for the legitimate betterment of the human species, their only recourse is the decoupling of capital and engineering, which is to say their only recourse is the establishment of communism. Engineers and Communism The relationship between engineers and communism can be analyzed in terms of two distinct but related categories: the role of engineers in the revolutionary destruction of capitalism, and their role once communism is established. Given that an organized revolutionary movement willing and able to dismantle capitalism does not yet exist, much of this is speculation. My goal here is not to try to predict the future but to illuminate possible trajectories for dynamics that exist today so that they can be conceptually digested ahead of time, at least rudimentarily. As I said, there is no single engineering subjectivity, hence no direct link between engineering and a possible revolutionary consciousness. What can be said with near certainty is that a revolution that does not have substantial participation from engineers is doomed to fail at implementing communism. The material basis for communism is not proletarian rage or mass-scale dispossession, it is centuries of labor now embodied in the form of fixed capital: machinery, buildings, global productive infrastructure, and countless commodities. There is a cruel irony to the fact that communism has been made possible by the brutal subjugation of the majority of the planet’s population into wage labor, but it is indeed mass manufacturing and global distributive capacity that makes a planned social system, controllable by the collective human desire for wellbeing, possible. Capitalism has created the technical means for a society based on the rational safeguarding and expansion of human welfare, but not necessarily the social forms that are conducive to such a society. Engineering, as it currently exists, represents the overwhelming bulk of the technical knowledge existing within capitalism, but is socially composed in a way that would necessarily be dissolved by the establishment of communism. The past two decades have seen a rebirth of mass politics brought on by decreasing proletarian access to the means of subsistence. These struggles signal the start of a new phase in proletarian activity qualitatively different from the mass worker mobilizations of the 19th and 20h centuries. Unlike many of these older struggles, the mass mobilizations of today tend to take place outside of the workplace and, insofar as they have demands or specific complaints, are focused largely on a lack of the means of subsistence rather than on workplace issues or other matters relating directly to capitalist productive activity. The reasons for this lie outside the scope of this essay; however, a significant causal factor is the simple fact that a far smaller proportion of the global proletarian population is today employed directly in the commodity production process. This is why much contemporary communist theory focuses on the role of surplus population (the growing number of people superfluous to commodity production) in today’s struggles and uprisings; this is now the defining dynamic of proletarian self-activity. The problematic aspect of this dynamic is that these movements cannot build towards communism without the involvement of workers with the technical know-how of commodity production and the willingness to deploy that know-how towards communist ends. In the US, where I live, there is very little in the way of self-organization among engineers. There have been noteworthy unionization drives among software development employees (including those with Software Engineer titles) in recent years, including those at Alphabet (Google), The New York Times, and NPR. Despite many of the participants holding titles containing the word “engineer,” software engineering and development tend to be very different from the types of engineering described in this essay. Software engineers play both the role of rationalizing technical expert and that of hands-on craftsperson wielding particular knowledge of the work medium (code). A software engineer, despite the title and generally heftier salary, is more akin to a very skilled and creative technician than to an engineer whose job it is to command, directly or indirectly, “low-skilled” labor. Attempts to introduce the traditional technical division of labor into the software realm are simply not very effective, as software is a much more abstracted practice than most other forms of engineering. Engineering utilizes abstract concepts to manipulate concrete phenomena that fundamentally require human labor time. A 3D CAD model of a machine component is abstract, but the human labor needed to fabricate the component is concrete. A circuit schematic is very abstract but ultimately useless if it is not manufactured into an actual circuit board by a person operating a machine. The process specification for a manufacturing cell exists only so that the cell succeeds in manufacturing concrete goods, otherwise the specification is useless. In contrast, software, with its cascading layers of languages, compilers, and assemblers, is much more abstract. While software controls the very physical phenomenon of electrons racing around computer components, these concrete processes are not dependent on human labor time to function. Sure, someone had to manufacture the CPU and the motherboard and the memory, but this labor was controlled by mechanical, electrical, and manufacturing engineers. Software tends to control that which is inhuman; it is a tool that can be used to automate its own development processes. Where it cannot automate its own development, there is nobody left qualified to perform these un-automatable tasks except for the software engineers/developers themselves, as the expertise required is often too high to pass the work off to anyone with less of an understanding. This is not to say that attempts at rationalization do not occur. They are simply far less effective than those that have historically occurred in manufacturing. Not all software exists in the abstract, however. Software embedded in machines, or software used to manage the labor of others, certainly functions similarly to the type of engineering abstractions used to entrench division of labor in other engineering disciplines. Machine-user interfaces, warehouse sorting algorithms, and ride-sharing apps are examples of software development that absolutely uses abstractions to enforce a technical division of labor in line with older engineering disciplines. This type of software engineering is different from the work of the software developers who are beginning to organize in their workplaces. Anecdotally, I can identify a rift in culture between older engineers and younger ones. Dissatisfaction with working conditions and compensation seem to be more prevalent among engineers earlier on in their careers. Pensions are now exceedingly rare, where they used to be commonplace. Salaries, while still higher than those of many other “professionals”, are often stagnant or even shrinking relative to cost of living. It is an open secret that the only way to secure a significant raise is to leave a company after a year or two for another one that will pay more, a process that one must repeat in order to secure a salary capable of the mythological “middle class lifestyle” an engineer in older times could have had for his (it was almost always a man) family as a single earner. A growing proportion of female engineers often finds themselves butting heads with the sexism one can easily imagine entrenched in a historically male-dominated work culture. An increasingly hostile housing market and a determination on the part of employers to keep wages stagnant is making it a lot easier for younger engineers (younger workers of all kinds, really) to see the antagonism between themselves and the shareholders, even if the actual work they perform is squarely in the corner of big-C Capital. Putting aside the question of how engineers will partake in the revolutionary dismantling of capitalism, there exists the question of what engineers will do afterwards. This is obviously highly dependent on the specifics of the world that the revolution inherits, and cannot reasonably be predicted here. Nonetheless, it is likely that the technical division of labor will dissolve itself. The separation of expertise from practice is only “rational” by the logic of capital. Given how hampering this division becomes when it becomes increasingly granular, the dissolution of capital would necessarily dissolve any incentive to divide technical expertise so severely. Automation, liberated from simply being a tool for capital, can be deployed to eliminate drudgery rather than to engender it in the manufacturing process. The destruction of many useless industries, from armaments production to health insurance, would mean severely less hands-on dirty work, and the opening up of learning resources to anybody who desires access would surely kill the distinction between engineer and laborer. Those who do will have the freedom to think, and those who think will be empowered to do. This will improve the lives of engineers as much as everyone else’s.