Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Engineering.  §

I should have been an engineer.

I love mechanisms, the mechanical contrivances of the late modern era, the more ingenious, capable, and idiosyncratic the better. The give me the flutters. They make me happy. I like to look at them, listen to them, take them apart, put them back together, enjoy them, exercise their capabilities just for the sheer joy of seeing so many principles and properties of matter and so much of the ingenuity of human thought at work.

I love DLT. Seriously. Once I get the bug and realize the drive is there, I run backup after backup just for the joy of hearing the linear tape wind and rewind, and the thought of the microscopic robustness of the device and its accessories, and of the hundreds and hundreds of gigabytes of information being stored there. The sound of the drive is like music to my ears.

I love wristwatches. Automatics in particular. I tumble them about just to hear the rotor glide this way and that, and hold them to my ear to hear the escapement pivot, tic-tic-tic-tic-tic. I stare at them and watch the tiny movements of the second hand, so precise, so regular. I run my fingers along the solid blocks of stainless steel and titanium that make the case, so precisely forged and ground.

I love printers and scanners. I love to watch the data LED illuminate and think about the signaling on the Cat-6 cabling and the multi-layered protocols at work and their correspondence to voltages and currents and their perturbations as organized signals that represent, ultimately, everything from concepts to images to language. I love to watch the rollers spin with their own inevitable logic, hard-coded into firmware, and to think about the laser and drum and toner and fuser at work in perfect synchrony.

I love the internal combustion engine, for all its sins. Such a guilty pleasure. I love to press on the accelerator pedal and imagine the crankshaft and bearings and rods and pistons and cylinders and their movements, as well as the fuel injectors and spark plugs and various pumps for lubrication and heat transfer that are at work. And to think of the power that is thus generated and its punctuated nature and the way in which increasing multiplicities of cylinders equate to a calculus of integration, with the power curve being ever-less quantized, effectively, in relation to cylinder count.

Gosh, even just holding a molybdenum magnet in my hand makes me feel as though I am going to faint with appreciation. The same goes for the mirror and eyepiece lens in a good Newtonian reflector, or for the soles of my Blundstone shoes, or for the incredible—incredible—precision of soda cans.

Whatever else happens in my life or in my world now or in the future, I feel privileged to live in an age of such wonders of order in an entropic universe. We are a broken, bizarre species saddled with a particular self-defeating form of collaboration and organization that can alternately be referred to as society or as culture (depending, in turns, on whether one is a sociologist or an anthropologist, though in principle the two perspectives ought to enjoy a synergistic, rather than an antagonistic and lexically mutually exclusive, relationship) but in fact our ability to collaborate and to accumulate and accrue knowledge and skill as integral to this ethos of collaboration is beautiful.

Engineering is beautiful.

Here is to the engineers. You make evident the coolest, most super-awesome face of humanity’s nature.

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