Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Tell HN: Thanks and hats off to all the non software engineers
174 points by firstfewshells 9 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 122 comments
It's amazing what civil, mechanical, structural, electrical and all other "real world" engineers have built for us. They need to be paid way more than software engineers IMO considering how critical their work is. Yes, I know it's a pipe dream, cause supply and demand. "Have you seen how much big tech makes?".

Whenever my mind wanders off and lands on a video of practical engineering, it boggles my mind how complex real world systems are put in place. Big hats off to those engineering these systems so us pampered folks can whine about RTO vs WFH and Rust vs Go.

Mech E here. The reality we’re paid less is because it’s harder to make a profit (but to be fair, MechE in tech get paid well still). Making good margins is really hard. You have one shot to do anything. Worse of all, anyone can take apart your design, reverse engineer and sell your product by 20% less because they don’t have to worry about recovering R&D. Most Americans won’t even bat an eye, they’ll just buy whatever works and is cheap and affordable to them.


Software companies have very little cost other than engineering.

For hardware, once your engineers have created a design, you still have to operate a factory, pay for expensive manufacturing equipment and expensive labor required to actually build the design.

Thus, you get much less "margin per engineer" and the available portion of gross margin that can be paid to engineering is much smaller.

Still, thank you OP. It's nice to get some recognition sometimes :)

This is the correct insight. The costs that were going to materials, regulations etc just don't exist with software. So the majority of the money goes to the majority of the inputs which is labor.

Yeah, but you have patent protection. Software engineers don't have that in all parts of the world.

China doesn't care about patents and will manufacture your design for 1/3rd of the price.

Not to forget they will manufacture it for 1/3rd of the price, often with 1/4th of the quality of the original part but still will put your logo onto it. And you as the original part maker then to struggle with the damage to your reputation

Hats off to just... non-engineers in general. Some of the most important people in society like nurses, teachers, and drivers get paid absolutely terribly and are being forced to fight tooth and nail just to get a pay rise that matches inflation. We tap keys on a keyboard and drink coffee in air conditioned offices (or at home) and get paid stupid amounts.

Plumbers, garbage men, the cooks, the doctors. The people who take care of our land and skies. The people who protect us.

The scientists solving harder problems.

So many people should be appreciated

Like the recent physicists who made the breakthrough in nuclear fusion. Or the chemists, biologists and virologists who made or contributed to the mRNA breakthroughs and development of the Covid vaccine, or really any vaccines in recent decades.

absolutely 100 percent.

* in the United States.

Lots of commenters are living and working in Europe or somewhere else outside the USA. We're not on the same salaried. More comparable to accountants and marketing.

In my view, it comes down to two things. First is that while programming seems easy to those of us who can do it, it's actually prohibitively hard for most people to learn -- for reasons that we don't understand. Thus, demand can't be satisfied by "just" training more people.

Software can market itself through its aesthetic and cultural appeal, thus attracting disproportionate interest from managers and investors. A new project can produce a beautiful demo with no underlying functionality.

I'm not sure there's a clear rational relationship between the cost of software development and the value it produces. I've read The Mythical Man Month.

One problem with traditional engineering is that we don't have the tools to make ourselves maximally efficient, such as JIRA and Scrum. The reality of getting things physically made and tested adds some slack to our work flow. Personally I prefer that, coming from the "hardware" side. My friends who are programmers at my age work a lot harder than I do, and many are burnt out. I have the luxury of using programming as a tool without anybody managing how I do it.

The reason software engineers make more money than other engineers is quite simple. Software scales a lot better than hardware, so a lot more money can be made with it. Thus more business are built on it, thus demand for those who can build software, thus higher pay.

That software engineers be pampered or not is a result of demand being high for the skills. In the long term, it's not a matter of industry culture (as this wouldn't survive financial pressure under stress) but really a simple result of relative rarity in the face of excessive demand.

Software also requires far more maintenance and modification. Whereas building a bridge takes more work than maintaining it software is often the opposite

While true, nobody asks you to turn a bridge into a tunnel the day after the first cars drive across it either.

Genius Manager: Let users choose whether they want a tunnel or a bridge, and you move the road to fit their needs!

Genius Engineer: Easy, the new intel bridge builder runs a million times faster than they used to, done!

And then each car has to wait for the bridge to be rebuilt, and people wonder why driving isn't any faster than it used to even though everything is a million times faster.

Kayak => Ferry => Bridge => Tunnel

No you are not allowed to rewrite or refactor. Only add!

I don't think so. The factories building the hardware require much more maintenance than the software just to keep the lights on, not including growth. Solid state stuff is incredibly reliable in comparison. Then add growth, which I already explained is where software truly shines in how cheap it is to scale in comparison.

There's a reason software companies are making fortunes. The margins are incredibly high, high enough to more than compensate for inefficiencies such as lavish office spaces, low employee utilization, etc.

Yes, but. Most real world engineers could also be software engineers too. I studied Mechanical Engineering and had to learn Fortran and Pascal as part of my undergrad. What I find strange is that some of the best software engineers are not as strong at Math as you would expect. Of course there are exceptions (and no doubt they are all here on HN!). So while real world engineers can cross the divide to become software engineers, the reverse is not the case in a lot of instances.

The best software engineers I have ever worked with have come from disciplines with different math focus: math, physics, physical engineering fields (mechanical, civil, etc.). Discrete math, the kind employed in CS curricula, is good for the theoretical discipline but in the vast majority of practical cases it’s sufficient to get by with a kind of CRC cheat sheet of algorithms and their performance characteristics, with corresponding language specific library implementations that someone from CS built.

Although it does help to actually learn the underlying theory, too: makes one just that much more capable

> What I find strange is that some of the best software engineers are not as strong at Math as you would expect.

I actually trained to be a commercial pilot prior to becoming a software engineer and I suck at math, which people would expect is extremely important in both fields.

Granted, in college I still had to get through advanced aerodynamics courses and stuff like that, but I studied just enough to pass those. In software engineering, I use almost zero math and I've been doing this now for decades.

Exactly, a lot of what I do is creating software, scripts, etc. to help with or partially automate the design process. Designing a physical object using modern CAD tools is akin to creating a giant interconnected script that generates geometry. Much of it can be, and needs to be automated to get it all done.

Discrete math is still math. A software engineer may not be able to do a Laplace transform without reaching for a book but your typical traditional engineer won't do well with data structure and algorithm questions without training either.

I think it’s hard to switch jobs in all cases and I doubt any universal rule applies. Software engineering is more than writing Pascal. It’s like saying you can be a mechanical engineer because you learned physics in college.

disagree, at a base level almost all engineering is systems analysis. Understanding a system of queues is not massively different from a system of forces or a system of chemical reactions in terms of what sort of thinking it takes.

Coding and using coding tools is a bump in the road and then eventually that all fades into the background and you’re thinking just in terms of systems again.

That's wrong. Coding and using code is a skill in itself.

Forget math, I shocked myself with wet fingers on a light switch when I was like 8, and have been afraid of electricity ever since.

I am generally quite good at Discrete Math

I am terrible at Linear Algebra and Calculus.

I strongly dislike (and am terrible at) linear algebra and probability theory. Calculus seems fun though. And we all probably use Boolean algebra daily at our jobs, if unintentionally.

I'm so glad I failed the "Professional Engineer" qualification test just after I graduated. I had the worst cold/sinus infection of my life, barely maintaining consciousness during the test and losing consciousness between sections. I failed by one point with a 74%.

Had I passed, I would have likely been stuck in mechanical engineering for life due to salary lock-in. Instead, I got an average job, learned systems admin and development on my own time and was able to transition to a sys admin position after only 2 years as an ME.

I continued learning development and made a career as a software engineer which was an infinitely happier path for me.

For others' context I took the EIT and passed, but have never taken the PE. I've had a long, good career as a ME, systems engineer and general product designer for the medical device industry. I don't make bay area software engineer money, but close. There are lots of us MEs that are able to do well, be happy, designing things like surgical robotics, implants, medical instruments, devices, etc.

Yeah, most of them have, in my country, called Licensed for Professional Practice while software engineers don't. If developers were to stay comply with standard quality, we would get license cancelled very fast. For example, look at how frontends don't like to talk about engineering metrics like memory / size / perf etc, it's as if this is literally a fashion industry.

Don’t mistake gatekeeping with desirable outcomes.

Embracing non-engineer metrics is the gatekeeping. It allows some people to capitalize new comers with snake oil, prevent them from accessing better stuff.

Going mechanical engineering in the U.S. is such an incredibly poor ROI at this point, it’s ridiculous. My observations have led me to believe MBAs presume everything can be outsourced to India or Soviet satellites.

Unsure of where that’s going to lead us, but I know a lot of salty MechE’s who genuinely wanted to be MechE’s for whatever reasons they had, but just can’t pass up the salary increase to be had in… other lines of work - including being a simple handyman plumber.

We don't have the manufacturing capability in the US to make use of a boatload of really good MechE's here. There's sort of 3 paths I've seen among ME's I know: 1) Product Design at large tech company who can make consumer electronics in the millions overseas, 2) SMB work/freelance – doing odd jobs for themselves or small businesses: making specialized manufacturing equipment for low-volume high-value US MFG, doing small runs of "designer" accessories for tech (e.g. phone cases), or specializing in a niche field that interests them like mountain biking, and 3) switching to a better paid field like EE/CS after they discover that mechatronics is on par with biomedical engineering in terms of demand for engineers who know a little about everything, but aren't super deep in one particular area.

Option 4) find a niche to specialize in, like medical devices or aerospace and develop a deep skillset in that, a track record of delivering real results. It doesn't matter what door you come in, chemist, various engineering degrees, if you get good at thr business of delivering what companies want they don't care what your degree is in.

I studied mechanical engineering in India and switched to software because it's extremely poor ROI even here. You get staggeringly higher pay if you're a good developer. I teach CS grads, and this is becoming so clear to me that not everyone seems to be good at doing this stuff. When someone outsources to India, and then complains about bad quality, it's because the way kids pick disciplines is purely based on the perceived prestige and the money. Every other field pays less than engineering, and every other discipline pays less than CS. Our testing system, the JEE, makes it hard for anyone to get what they're passionate about. They only get good at taking standardized tests. Very few people are lucky enough to be able to pivot to doing what they love and are good at.

Another factor is the ease with which someone can be self-employed. It's much easier to sustain a 1 person handyman than mechanical engineering business. (I wouldn't call it "simple" though personally) Edit: if being self employed is appealing for the individual.

I dont agree. In tech, med device, aerospace, etc. a Mech E can do very well, especially in relationship to the average american.

Not a software engineer myself but I fully disagree with you OP. People get paid for how hard it is to replace them and how much they are needed not for the hard or more tangible work they do.

There is nothing pampered about WFH or Rust vs Go. I feel like you are despising software engineers to make others look better? It is not a competition and you can praise others without putting down software engineers.

Would you feel better if software engineers got paid a lot less as office wage slaves?

Truth is, those fields get paid less (not always btw) because there are too many people in them vs the demand. Learning software enginetring is very hard and unpleasant for most people. Most people don't want to be stuck in frony of a computer working om intangible code either and that's why you get paid more.

I try to get relatives to get in tech but they simply don't want to and do other things, which is fine. But it is unfair to say people who don't want to work in better paying fields (and stabilize the pay) should get paid more despite thr crowding in their field. You can still appreciate them for taking on lesser paying jobs that have more value to society and you shouldn't stop there, everyone from janitors to contractors add a lot lf societal value.

> Most people don't want to be stuck in frony of a computer working om intangible code either and that's why you get paid more.

I feel like this hits the nail on the head. Neither me nor anyone else I know would work as a software engineer if the pay were significantly lower. I daydream of stacking shelves. If that paid half, I’d absolutely take it over software engineering. But it only pays 1/4, so I kill myself in software engineering and burn out every few years with enough money to pay for sabbaticals. My point is that if software engineering paid less, you wouldn’t get good software because none of the good engineers would actually work software engineering jobs.

FWIW, I would work in tech even if I won a huge lottery so it isn't none just not most. I did work physically demanding and outdoory jobs, not for me. I need constant cerebral engagement with little human drama.

I spent many evenings and weekends doing techy stuff to be where i am. I spent and am spending all of my holiday season offtime learning/studying.

Yes to both. Changed careers to do this when I discovered I had both the aptitude and interest. I've only had the marginal success doing it that I've had a result of substantial time invested studying independently.

With that said, I'm absolutely burnt out on endless meetings, bs deliverables, mismanagement, and cargo-cult testing nonsense on Yet Another Crud App.

I too spend substantial time reading about build systems, programming languages, etc. I want nothing more to work on something at least marginally interesting with the opportunity to learn from my peers. That's not at all present in my current circumstances.

I wouldn't do _this_ given a hypothetical lottery windfall.

Thanks and hats off to all people doing useful work everywhere. From store clerks to firefighters, from office administrators to CEOs of companies providing useful products/services at a large scale. We need each other.

On the topic of engineering specifically, yes engineers build reliable complex systems that make the world livable. Software engineers also build the invisible bits that runs the digital infrastructure of the world. Everyone counts.

> From store clerks to firefighters, from office administrators to CEOs of companies providing useful products/services at a large scale.

I run a small software business, but also work part-time as an EMT and volunteer as a SAR medic.

I make approximately 12x more from my software business per hour worked (and I'm the lowest paid employee in the business) than I do working as an EMT (and obviously the volunteer isn't paid at all). I could make a lot more again in industry.

As an EMT, I work with people who are skilled, educated, hard-working, diligent, and who make enormous personal sacrifices (familially, financially, and mentally) for their patients. That includes the paramedics, nurses, doctors, and even SAR heli crews we hand over to.

And yet, to a rounding error, none of them will ever earn as much as I do as a part-time software developer.

Yes, there are other non-tangible benefits to working in healthcare - after all, that's why I do it.

There are also enormous costs, mostly in terms of time and psychological cost. And almost everyone I work with (although not all) could make more money working less hours in a better working environment.

So my hat goes off to all the labourers, but especially those I mentioned above, because they almost always have better options, but they don't leave. Almost always because they care more about their patients than their own personal bottom line.

Wow, so is it like $40h vs $480/h?

€18 per hour versus ~€1,500 per day.

Amazing: 18 EUR seems way too low. Same as retail/barista etc. here

Over the past few years, I've been taking driving very seriously in terms of skill development and practice.

One ritual I've started doing is thanking my car after every drive.

For the privilege I'm afforded by being able to drive freely unlike most of the world.

For the car itself for holding up so reliably.

And for the hundred+ years of engineering man hours and passion given to get where we are today.

In any population of drivers, the effort put in saves (literally) countless lives every day. And while things like sturdy bridges and the reliability of tall buildings are obviously important, driving involves flinging your fragile body extremely fast (in comparison to normal movement) while fighting tooth and nail against physics to perform as you want.

It keeps me humble and, as a bonus, makes me care for my car more through maintenance and cleanliness.

You seem to suggest cars save more lives than they take.

I am not sure that's the case. Especially knowing the car injury stats and secondary effects of different kinds of pollution.

It's quite simple math, for instance ambulances deliver every year thousands of people in life threatening conditions, while road deaths are in low hundreds, there is no noncar alternative to ambulance really. Regarding pollution it would be very complicated to calculate, but I think you overestimate impact of public and personal transport on pollution, it's negligible compared to other sources of pollution calculated per capita.

Definitely not. But it's not just only optimizing for life, it's having flexible and reliable transportation while making sure as few injuries happen as possible in the process.

Motor travel let us distribute food, medicine, and specialized labor that would otherwise be impossible/impractical to do.

Sure you can argue that's not worth the non zero number of lives lost in the process, but we wouldn't be able to live the modern lifestyles we have today without it.

Like being able to go to a hospital filled with teams of experienced specialists to get better treatment.

I am mechanical engineer, though I never worked in engineering.

The low cost and amazing reliability, all things considered, of modern cars, absolutely amazes me.

Historically a lot of progress was made in these areas and what they are able to do is amazing, but I dissagree that it is necessarily harder today.

Many engineers in all disciplines do things that are relatively easy and some of them also do novel things that are hard.

I don't think that is different in software.

Let's pay respect in ways other than money too. Money isn't everything and the goal isn't to have everybody ranked by income as a proxy for how useful or how much "worth" they are.

There are vanishingly few places in the US where you can occupy space without paying money.

If you don't believe it is all that matters, you will quickly be reminded of how wrong you are to believe that.

My favourite example of this is Christopher Knight. Fed up with society, he lived alone in a forest for almost 30 years. He broke into people’s houses when they weren’t home to steal batteries and when he was caught and charged, a condition of his release was that he was to re-integrate into society; he was not allowed to return to the forest. This is a really good reminder that you are only free to do what you want as long as you produce for the economy. If you don’t produce, the country will find a way to force you.

In your example I think it's more like "If you don’t stop stealing, the country will find a way to force you."

I know what you mean and it's obviously true. I just wish it wasn't and it begins with all of us to change that. If we keep it up without adjusting how much we pay people for their work based on how important their work is to society then you'll just have people always chasing the money and doing whatever gets them up the ladder with a net loss to society I'd presume.

Can't pay my bills with "Thank you"s . Give me money.

That's exactly what this post is.

But I'd also like to be able to afford to not share a bedroom with my kids. That costs a lot these days.

In the United States at least, the system is based on capital. And money is a proxy for everything.

There's a lot more to life than materialism and money, if that's what you want. Sure, money can help, but money can also be a curse - even before your rich.

Thank You for warm words, I'm electronics dev by first education.

But, I must admit, in modern tech, each day larger share get software.

For example, because of sanctions, Russians have troubles in buy industrial chips for automobiles, and their govt decided, to accept manufacture new autos without modern safety systems - no airbags, no abs, no esc, etc.

Military jet planes are now micro datacenters, for example, F-35 just have few racks with triple redundant computers, because they are nearly impossible to fly without software; similar thing with Russian Su-27 and all their relatives (Su-33, Su-35) - to be more maneuverable, they designed to be extremely unstable, so software constantly correct their air-dynamic configuration, also their air-dynamic configuration automatically change with speed change.

If You prefer numbers, from ~ F-16, about half cost of military jet plane is software.

Indeed! Programming pre-hardware is not a time of my career I want to repeat. I’m no Lovelace— I need to see my code run to know it’s correct.

Everything was built on the shoulders of giants

"In Computer Science, we stand on each other's feet."

-- Brian K. Reid

I always wondered why we say "giants" here. It would be more accurate and empowering to say "everything was built on the shoulders of our ancestors" they weren't giants. They were regular people.

It’s a quote from Newton, so that’s obviously why we say it.

The reason he said ‘giants’ is supposedly that it was a dig at Robert Hooke, who was famously short. Impressively, if true then he both managed to get this dig in and to be remembered for his humility as a result of it.

Newton is a fascinating guy. Did way more work in alchemy trying to turn lead into gold than he did in math and physics (the mercury he used probably made him nuts). He took a day job running the British treasury where he investigated counterfeiters which was punishable by death at the time. And he was responsible for setting the exchange rate between gold and silver. He messed up, all the silver was worth way more melted down and used to make things like utensils than it was as currency so it disappeared from circulation which was critical for creating the gold standard that would last the next 300ish years

The correct answer is that, while it is of course true that they were just humans, we label them as giants in retrospect due to their accomplishments.

However the fun answer is: Voltron. For example our smartphones were built by Steve Jobs piloting a Voltron’d up giant. It has Tesla as one hand, Edison as the other, and their rivalry drives a lot of the dialogue. Von Neumann and Clerk Maxwell make up the torso, and the main villain for the first couple seasons is actually Maxwell’s Demon.

I think it's because one can see the "horizon" better whilst standing on a giant - the horizon being the future of scientific/engineering progress (or whatever we'd like to call it). But yes it's a good point, I'm not a fan of appealing to authority either which is kind of how the quote makes it seem. We had this exact discussion in an engineering class so the above is relevant to my experience only

The answer depends on your culture and worldview. Is it more individualistic - or communal?

For some people, there are literal geniuses/die-hards/quacks that changed the industry/tooling/mindset.

For other people, they believe there are no 10x engineers and society as a whole is always to credit.

Interesting, referring to remarkable people as giants doesn't exist in your native language?

Yes but the point being that technological achievements aren't the work of a small group of remarkable people. They are due to the hard constant work of regular people making incremental improvements that add up to the achievements we see.

If anything, a giant in this case is an organization of humans who have toiled on those small improvements through many years.

Those regular people making incremental improvements are the aforementioned giants...

It's a metaphor



You are literally asking why we don't say what is literally true and instead we say something that elicits an image by comparison.

That's the answer. Because they choose to use a metaphor instead of speaking literally.

>"real world" engineers need to be paid way more

Why so? Sounds silly to me as a soft engineer, cause software dev is:

1. A lot of the time – connected to the "real world" engineering, so it is just as real, modern real world and civil engineering can't function without software.

2. A lot more abstract, so we literally build whole factories in our brains, sometimes just one or two of us while real factories are built by hundreds of men

3. Well, a modern-day thing existing for less than a century, where real-world engineering in accumulating knowledge for centuries, essentially turning soft.

IMO all real engineering will eventually turn software and cloud, in decades it will be possible to design real-world production and logistic pipelines just with code and abstracted robotic resources, like in factorio

I’m personally a huge fan of indoor plumbing and electricity. Thanks plumbers and electricians!

Great work is done in any field. It is just that the tech companies have a massive reach and can achieve that very quickly with very less investment. This makes them scale and create lots of hype which brings in a lot of money. Now this is the playbook of silicon valley. But there are software companies and engineers who do some amazing work but do not use the silicon valley way of generating wealth (which is mostly on paper). We never come to know about those companies and software engineers.

Any creation for positive impact on the world, whether engineering or humanities should be applauded and paid well. Unfortunately that rarely happens.

Just take a deep breath and appreciate what it would smell like if it weren't for sewage treatment engineers.

So much of the world would be unlivable if it weren't for inventions of the past that are no longer considered interesting.

People would probably die if I was an actual engineer, so I'm deeply appreciative that I can enjoy infrastructure and whatnot without having to worry about it crumbling above/beneath me.

Most infrastructure relies on software as well. I mean just look at the Southwest kerfuffle for a current example

What a terrifying thought

Non software engineers? In other words, "engineers"? (I kid, sorta. :P)

Allow me to openly admit I wish I was cool enough to be a real-world engineer. Not that I'm anyone of significance, but I do think it's worth generally expressing more regularly.

I've had these exact thoughts in my head XD. I agree that a lot of other jobs deserve higher pay but aren't given higher pay due to economical reasons.

I hat off to many but not all of them. At least some engineers who work in government were linked with construction corruption in my city a few years ago.

Related - when I am on a long drive, I always marvel/comment: if this trip is hard to drive, imagine what a bitch it was to build this road?

The economic principle that causes this unfairness is simple: the closer you are to the end consumer, the more money you make.

Software engineer here now currently doing hobby MCU and electronics engineering.

Being raised in Asia, I learned college level math in highschool so math here is a piece of cake.

Also I am happy to get downvoted! Yay!

If you've seen Margin Call, you know the scene I'm thinking of right now. The "I Built a Bridge" scene.

Beginning in the mid-70s something went horribly, horribly wrong with the way capital handles risk management, resulting in "real stuff" being undervalued by orders of magnitude, since it was by nature riskier. Hence that aforementuioned scene.

Russian-style command economies failed in some part because they lacked mechanisms for borrowing money from the future. The American system is staring failure right in the face because of its inability to quantify what future value implies. I imagine future history books will look at the two systems in parallel, the latest chapter in the ongoing story of telluric states and the thalassocracies that separate them. With all the non-nuclear states huddled underneath in their shuddering quasi-sovereignty.

This is probably the most flame-worthy thing I've ever said on HN, so go nuts.

I hate to say this from an engineering stand-point, but that's because the nature of programable circuits and the systems that are derived from them. Thinking in terms of the plight of Bell Labs and how the demise that made them filthy rich, but also started the end of their company. I think you're wrong on a few levels, but mostly undervaluing the nature of how software on embedded systems are infinitely changeable. It's where hardware like SDR USB devices have yet to really be realized, but they almost future proof your hardware. Why innovate in hardware? You don't have to anymore for decades and still find useful ways to flash remote systems and exponentially make them useful. I have a 1st generation Amazon Echo - the thing is so over-engineered it'll last another decade and services will still work on it.

I value hardware, but I value versatility more.

They were Soviet rather than 'Russian-style' and they very much had ways to 'borrow from the future' - externally they were connected to the global economy and there was an internal system of industrial credit and settlement strictly separated from the cash economy individuals used.

Oh yeah. The invention of the Eurobond was a turning point not just in economics but for the history of the Soviet Union itself. It made the security state the sole gatekeeper, since you couldn't trust a design bureau to approach a London bank.

From what I understand, Gosbank-supervised credit system relied entirely on dynamic metrics from Narkomfin and higher up in the government, which made the pricing of such "debt" completely opaque. Like, deliberately so, unlike our Western variants which are theoretically transparent. I won't editorialize that.

I am not a super-expert, but the story of Rowland Barin and the Eurobond - and its effects on Soviet economics - captivated me after the Western financial system effectively collapsed in 2007-2008.

Tbh, your comment looks like it was authored by an LLM -- what is a "telluric state"?

Telluric means relating to the earth. Thalassocracy means a state of the ocean. Or a maritime empire.

I take their overall point there to draw a parallel to small states as islands, small spits of sand, connected by the thalassocracies, or oceans, of the US and USSR. In some sense, this is actually reality, especially under the US system of global economic hegemony via free trade (or some approximate, thereof).

I'm not an AI, at least, I don't think so. It's been co-opted by Russian weirdos, but the concept of a "land holding civilization" versus a "maritime civilization" is one of those historical metaphors that aids understanding rather than undermining it. In my opinion at least.

The two organizational principles are so fundamentally different, they're almost apples and oranges.


I fail to grasp the sentence though. What's a thalassocracy supposed to be in today's world?

The United States, with its blue-water navy, is commonly viewed as a Thalassocracy by a certain segment of the historian community. You can really go down the rabbithole but basically some people view the US as, at least in part, having the culture of an island scaled up to the size of a continent.

There's a similar train of thought that sea-based empires defeat land-based empires when the two do battle and some people view the conflict between the USSR and the United States during the cold war through that lense.

Terrestrial state, a state of (the planet) earth.

Not an LLM but maybe a francophone or a logophile.

Whats an LLM?

Large language model (like gpt3 or chatgpt)

Large Language Model, I think.

You're not wrong. https://wtfhappenedin1971.com/

Don't understate how complex modern software systems are.

Why compare those of us who write software with engineers? It makes more sense to compare us to say.. composers, poets or something. Writing software is an art form and has nothing in common with engineering other than some uncreative types trying to come up with a more official sounding name.

MechE here. I argue that what I do, designing medical devices, is exactly the same. More an art than a science, and more similar to software engineering than any of those other things you list.

Cool. I've known chemical, civil and structural engineers but never had the chance to meet/speak to a mechanical engineer. Interesting to know you look at your profession the same. Though I still think it (programming) is more akin to music or maybe philosophy than traditional engineering as I've heard it before. The focus on artificial languages, concepts and the severe lack of physical restrictions to guide you.

Totally, in software the rules are human made. One and zero are constructs of the himself mind. In Physics, which is all mechanical engineering is, the rules are created by the universe.

I am not sure why you are being downvoted. There is plenty of artistic expression in programming. Maybe we need to make more distinctions in the types of work that we do because I would love to see programming become a true engineering profession but we still need the artists and tinkerers in the world pushing the boundaries that we don't even know exist yet. We should not push out DaVinci or the Wright brothers but we should make sure critical systems are safe.

Writing code can be an art form, but I think there's a lot of software out there that really does need to be developed with the same amount of rigor as you'd use to design a bridge or a building, because people are depending on it functioning correctly. Nothing catches on fire if a singer makes a lousy rhyme. (At least, not unless they have a really harsh audience.)

I agree with the sentiment but imo software 'engineer' isn't wrong. It is in the sense that it's obviously unrelated to motors/engines but the word comes from the Latin ingeniator; to contrive or devise.

What a pukey post. We get paid more because our jobs are more difficult and generally make a bigger impact. You make me sick posting this.

I agree - but one reason that it's nauseating to see so much celebration of software engineers ("pampered folks") is the freedom-destroying force that FAANG is. It doesn't have to be like it is with walled garden after walled garden. https://ghuntley.com/fracture/

Oh my sweet summer child, you think civil, electrical and mechanical engineering are clean, ethical businesses? You don't get started in any serious EE work without signing manufacturer NDAs. Half the reason why our devices are so locked down is because of the hardware manufacturers. Behind beautiful skyscrapers are legions of corruption, middlemen, and organized crime. The cloud may hold your data hostage but the pricing is at least somewhat transparent. Mechanical engineering have their own ways of enforcing lock-in. You can't easily swap out a supplier just because you can see what a part looks like. Be glad that software isn't as regulated, you would not like to work in a industry where trade groups decide everything, and where licensing and accreditation unions are used to keep engineers in line like cattle.

This made me think of the joke "mechanical engineers build weapons and civil engineers build targets" in the context of ethics - of course it's a lot more than that in practice

Applications are open for YC Winter 2024

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact