I spent a couple days this week in eastern Washington State with a lot of senior Amazon engineers, all trying to discern and inscribe coherent form on the roiling surface of global-scale cloud tech. This piece is here so I can publish one pretty picture and four wise words about what it means to be an engineer.
“Obviously…” · We were in a session about a piece of software, starting to roll out internally, that might help address pain points we expect to become unbearable, assuming that AWS and Amazon grow to many times their current size.
Andrew was leading; someone spoke up, asking “And what if I need to do that 500,000 times a second?” Andrew nodded, face creasing, then began: “Obviously, there’s no magic…” More nods all around the room.
Children, religionists, and junior engineers are prone to believe in magic. And of course we’ve all heard Clarke’s Third Law, about what any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from.
But engineering veterans, every one of them, know there isn’t any. Which is why you have to sweat the details if you want to do anything half a million times a second. I think perhaps that’s what, as much as anything, defines us.
Having said that, around sunset I was in a place with a view when a veil of rain blew across in the medium distance. The camera had the thirty-year-old Pentax 50mm F1.4 portrait lens screwed on; not really an obvious choice for shooting mountains.
The lens was along so I could take ambient-light portraits, which obviously I can’t run here. That’s a pity; the faces are intelligent and quite thoroughly lived-in, full of stories.