Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Meeting with the Army Investigator Today

Last night I received a telephone call from an investigator who works for the army. He is doing a background investigation on Matt, a guy I knew in college, who is apparently moving into a position that requires a security clearance.

This is actually pretty common in my field. In fact, when I was getting my "SCI with polygraph," Matt was one of my references. Matt and I had a little bit of a falling out just before he graduated from college, so I was a little surprised he picked me for a reference, but since he did it for me, it makes sense that I'd do it for him. Plus, it's not like I'm going to try to keep Matt from getting his clearance.

Anyway, like I said, this is pretty common in my field. Engineers are often asked to do work for the government either as a government employee or a contractor. In fact, another friend (George) just received a card giving him no-questions-asked entry access to any military base anywhere across the country. This is one of the reasons why being a native born U.S. citizen was actually something that they said would benefit me in graduate programs.

This depresses me more than a little bit. It's bad enough to know that much of the work I do now will go toward military applications (even though it's general enough to be applied anywhere); it sucks to be reminded that there are few other engineering options that don't lead you to the military (especially during and after graduate school). You know all of that stuff about the military-industrial complex? It's all true. It's getting worse as more non-military jobs go overseas. This leaves a huge supply of technology designers with nothing left to do but work on military tech. This creates a larger and larger military hammer with government just looking for nails to swing it at. It's all true. It really sucks.

It's just so much bullshit. We're told to communicate to young people about engineers doing something noble... They build bridges and technology and improve the quality of life around you... However, in the end the engineers in this country just build technology that's made to kill people. That's not something that I can be proud of. Sure, they'll say something like, "Your efficient target selection algorithm is going to save thousands of lives of American citizens and soldiers," but what they really mean is, "We're going to kill everyone else, and we're really really trigger happy." I just can't be excited about that.

Really, I wouldn't have a problem building technology for the military that would help do some social good -- like restoring infrastructure in New Orleans -- but when asked for a military clearance to even do the work, there's a good chance that the work isn't going to involve doing something good... it will probably involve taking someone out.

So that's crappy. But what can I do? I got involved in engineering because I was sold the above-mentioned bullshit about doing a social good... and now it's too late for me to do anything else.

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