Strong Towns Podcast
Episode 205

Can you be an engineer and speak out for reform?

Charles Marohn published on

Chuck Marohn talks about the complaint made against him to the state licensing board for speaking out about reforming the engineering profession.

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2 Comments
  • Eli Damon

    This is a great look into the civil engineering profession. I found it really interesting.

    I think there's an interesting contrast between civil engineering and other engineering fields, such as electrical, mechanical,, chemcal, software, etc. I have a bachelor's degree in computer engineering, although I have never worked as one or been licensed as one. In most engineering fields, the design priorities are set by a client or employer. The engineer designs according to those priorities or they get fired. On the other hand, it seems like civil engineers set their own design priorities, and the client or employer (usually a state or municipal government) just accepts them. In my estimation both situations are terrible. For civil engineering, you get bad products because they are not informed by the clients' needs. For other engineering fields, you get bad products because they are not informed by how the products reflect on the profession as a whole.

    A major exception is the case of open source software, where engineers work together in large loosely connected groups, designing software that is informed by their own needs and and professional sensibilities. The design is constantly being reviewed and modified by new people. The result usually ends up being highly robust and flexible, albeit a little clunky.

    So what is the best way to organize an engineering field so that its products are of high quality, meet the needs of the clients, reflect well on the profession as a whole, and contribute to a healthy society?

    P.S. You liked philosophy? Cool. I really enjoyed my college philosphy classes too.

  • Friar Newborg

    Chuck, I love your idealism. And I think that my father, and two brothers, who are all Professional Engineers might share it too. But there are far too many people in the professions that are totally selfish - asking for more money, without regard to what is good for the whole of society. That applies to Engineers, Doctors, Teachers (as you have mentioned), and beyond that: to Lawyers and politicians, certainly. And maybe also to almost everyone else, right on to welfare recipients, who take their money from the state.

    We can change it. We must change it. And the way to do that is to TAKE THE HIGH ROAD, and make an argument for change with facts, figures, and arguments. As you did. Your opponent, the fellow of the professional engineers association, did not do that. He never mounted any sort of decent argument for his position. He was selfish and sloppy, just like the organization he represents. It is embarrassing (for his organization), and sad too.