Software Fuzzying maybe?

07 Oct 2009

This morning I read this post by Alfred Thompson about whether we are Software Engineers or something else. I can't help but agree with him, as I don't feel we are engineers (yet), our discipline is a little fuzzy to be classified as engineering I think.

However I think we are not alone in this boat. Not all engineering disciplines are quite so well cut. My father is an Engineering Pattern Maker. Yet a large proportion of his work involves hand tools to create his forms. Maybe the designing of the Pattern is engineering, but the creation of it is defiantly crafting as so much practical skill is involved in the creation. If instead of him making it, the design was given to a nice brainless CNC to make, would that CNC be as skilled and thus a craftsman(machine?), or would it magically become engineering due to the lack of a CNC's skills?

The same goes for science in my mind. This might be due to Robert M. Pirsig's excellent book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, where he goes to explain that science is about having a theory(s) then proving or disproving it, and continuing until all theories have been eliminated. At this point you have 'fact', or have missed some theories. His main point on this was 'where do theories come from? If you are sat there with no theories, and then you suddenly think of one, where did it come from? It certainly does not seem like a scientific method of theory discovery' (I don't have the book to hand, so can't find the exact quote. I will update later when I get home). So science is a bit 'fuzzy' too?

This also applies to art. If a sculpture is to be created, it needs to be structurally sound, else it just won't work. So some engineering is involved there too. And possibly science of materials too.

I think my point is that we are just trying to label everything into distinct categories, which just isn't going to work, unless your categories are so wide that they might as well not exist.

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