Science has mostly been an analytic pursuit; we try to break the universe into its constituent parts and analyze these parts for what they are. This method is also often called reductionism, but one can be analytic without being a reductionist. Engineering on the other hand is synthetic; while an engineer does analyze cars in terms of engines and carburetors, the analysis is in the service of building a car. The parts are there to create the whole, not the other way around. The irreducibility of the whole is crucial to engineering; people buy cars, not carburetors.

Seeing as technology is mostly tied to production for the market, engineering is driven by pragmatic concerns — “does it work?” or “will it sell?” A synthetic science that has the innocence of the pure pursuit of knowledge while keeping in mind the synthetic character of the systems it studies and the knowledge it creates might be better suited to the leading problems of our times such as understanding the mind and addressing climate change.

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