2013-05-18

The Mindset of an Engineer

Google I/O 2013 is over and a lot has been written about it. What struck me is how negative and cynical some of the reactions to Larry Page's surprise appearance and Q&A were. This article in Slate is a prime example. Now I understand perfectly well how people are distrusting and jaded with marketing speech from big companies. But that's sort of the point. The live Q&A format was set up in a way that Larry could be his geeky self and way more candid than the typical polished prepared speeches you get at events like this. Gizmodo and Techcrunch got it I think.

Anyway, an older article in Wired nailed his character perfectly, which was evident in the keynote speech as well:

"Teller imagines wheeling a Dr. Who time machine into Page’s office. He plugs it in and—it works! But instead of being bowled over, Page asks why it needs a plug. Wouldn’t it be better if it didn’t use power at all? “It’s not because he’s not excited about time machines or he’s ungrateful that we built it,” Teller says. “It’s just core to who he is. There’s always more to do, and his focus is on where the next 10X will come from.”"

This! A 1000x times this. My younger brother once remarked on the difference between the two of us. When confronted with something new his first impulse is to understand why it is the way it is, the history and background of the thing. My first reaction is to find the flaws, bulldoze the place and come up with an improved design. So in this sense I can very much sympathize with Larry's mindset. As I suspect most engineers do.

"We should be building great things that don't exist!"