How engineering lead me to traveling

Basile Samel
Nov 16, 2018 · 3 min read
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This post is part of my 200 words per day challenge that I am sharing publicly on Twitter in order to improve my writing and develop a writing routine. Feel free to join and comment.

Technical mastery and societal responsibility are two sides of the engineer.

An expert who mastered the aspects of his craft on a given production line, as well as a manager capable of integrating both a collaborative logic and a self-development practice to solve a technical problem involving many stakeholders. A science keeper, but also a vector of evolution through creation, or destruction.

I am a french software engineer. I became one because working in tech was my calling since childhood. In my country, engineering is an institution in itself, separate from the traditional university system — the Grandes Ecoles, based on a merit-based system of competitive entry — and dating back to the Napoleonic era around the 17th century. Engineers were part of a military corp created for one purpose: to build engines of war.

It is tempting to think that I am referring to a past long forgotten. Unfortunately, it has never been more true, whether we are talking about hard or soft wars. Something as harmless as computer vision can become a mass destruction weapon when it is integrated into drones.

Consequently, engineers have huge responsibilities toward society, and this reality presents us with numerous ethical questions. I have been asking myself those questions revolving around living a meaningful life since at least high school.

In order to face this daunting responsibility, I came to the conclusion I must strive to become a “skillful individual” as Montaigne puts it (thank you forgotten french teacher for showing me this text), meaning, a person capable of judging things for what they are. This state supposes 1) the definition of objective criterias and 2) knowledge to understand and assess those criterias.

Both objectives can only be attained by seeking a continuous education and a form of intellectual independence. This is what my travels are about at the core: overcoming borders, both physical and intellectual (independence), and encounters (continuous education by meeting people whose culture differs from mine).

This idea of travel is deeply ingrained in me since childhood. As a child, I used to spend my summers traveling in the iberic peninsula using the family homemade truck camper. We rarely spent many days in the same place, yet we were tied to the earth and its inhabitants. I already enjoyed comparing myself to a gipsy nomad, and this photography lasted until my engineering studies.

Throughout all those years, I came to imagine nomadism as a sustainable way of life. To become a better, a more complete engineer, I decided to go on with my engineering studies in Stockholm at age 22.

I am 24 now. I never stopped slow traveling ever since, and it allowed me to find my own pragmatic interpretation of my role in society as an ethical engineer. (spoiler alert: it involves entrepreneurship)

Liked this short post ? Follow my adventures in real time on Twitter.

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