I learned as a child to accept responsibility for my decisions. I was Spoiled. My siblings were easily irritated by their little sister, much to my delight. When the going got rough with them, the tough, i.e., me, hid behind Mother and blamed them. Mother helped me grow out of that behavior. Blaming others is the point of my exchange with this one person in IAH, in Houston, TX.
We got into a discussion about energy and environmental issues. At the end of the discussion, she accused me and all other engineers of being the root of all of our problems. "I think engineers cause all the problems. If engineers *just* wouldn't build all these plants, we wouldn't have all these problems," was her brusque retort. She was convinced so I let it go. With that, she had unloaded her conscience and walked away.
Many do not have the opportunity to work on projects in industry or develop new products to bring to market. But, it is not a difficult process to understand.
The first thing companies do is research to understand market potential for a new product, Product X. They have to know they are going to make money or it does not get done. What does that depend on? The consumer and his desire for Product X.
The second step is to do is an engineering study then an engineering estimate to determine how much it will cost to manufacture Product X.
The third step compares the money to be made against the cost to make Product X. If the return on the investment is too low, the project is shelved. If the return hits an acceptable return in a specified period, you have a project and the new manufacturing facility is built.
I have watched projects in my career endure engineering estimate after engineering estimate to determine whether or not a project is profitable enough to proceed. Some projects are so profitable and have such low risk, they fly through the approval process. Others have higher risk and profitability is more elusive to prove; therefore, nothing is done. Projects to manufacture new products can be studied for fifteen years, in my experience, only to be shelved or sold to another company.
But the key is the market study and what it reveals about the willingness of people to buy and pay for a product. Plants are built because people want something.
The easy road is to blame someone else for the problems we create. Accepting our part in wanting products that make life easier and/or more enjoyable is necessary to understand we will never return to the Stone Age of living because we cannot. It is necessary to be happy with where we are and to move forward with better technology and products.
It could be said that engineers make better technology and products to make people happy.