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Engineers Make Good Terrorists?

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the what's-wrong-with-an-engineering-degree dept.

Security 467

An anonymous reader writes "Engineers' focus and attention to details, along with their perceived lack of social skills, make them ideal targets to be recruited as terrorists, according to EETimes. Planning skills make engineers good 'field operatives' was written up by Raphael Perl, who heads the Action against Terrorism Unit of Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He offers that 'Engineers ideally make excellent strategic planners, and they make excellent field operatives. They think differently from how other people think.' That may sound like a stereotype, but Perl claims that 'because of those traits, terrorist groups actively recruit engineers.' He says that Al-Qaeda has widely acknowledged that a significant number of the group's top leadership had engineering backgrounds." This is the second time in just a few months that engineers have been likened to terrorists.

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Old news (5, Funny)

spazdor (902907) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955722)

We've been tapping engineers for our cause ever since Counterstrike came out.

Red Alert Counterstrike? Re:Old news (2)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955808)

You mean Command & Conquer: Red Alert Counterstrike, right? Since C&C had terrorist engineers long before that FPS came out...

Re:Red Alert Counterstrike? Re:Old news (1)

spazdor (902907) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956042)

Right you are. The Brotherhood of Nod were pioneers in this style of warfare.

Then answer this... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22956176)

what does it pay? Health care? Time off? Options? Company Car?

FP! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22955726)

For Allah!

Re:FP! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22956226)

Damn Americans! We will roast your stomachs in hell!

I'm thinking defamation suit... (4, Funny)

RobinH (124750) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955738)

...but alas I'm an engineer, not a lawyer. :(

New Display System (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22955750)

Since Slashdot isn't going to open a thread to discuss the new display system I must post to this thread about some of the issues. First and foremost, the "I am willing to help test Slashdot's New Discussion System" checkbox does not completely revert the older version so my critiques are not solely about voluntarily beta testing the new system. Here are the issues:
*The keymapping on '/' (to move the thread toolbar) is the same as the quick search in Firefox. Any quick search will move the toolbar around in an annoying fashion.
*The margins are too wide except for those who have wide screen monitors*
*The 'more' functionality is fundamentally broken. It loads new entries by date instead of the logical position in a thread. Individual threads should be fully populated or at least have a 'click here for more entries' option. For old stories you shouldn't have to search the page again from top to bottom for the more darkly shaded newer comments after you click on more.*
*The in page reply makes me want to cry. This isn't Digg or YouTube!*
*The parent and reply buttons are wasting huge amounts of bandwidth. For example, for one entry we have 479 bytes wasted:

<span id="reply_link_22953942" class="nbutton"><p><b><a href="//mobile.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=510232&op=Reply&threshold=1&commentsort=0&mode=thread&pid=22953942" onclick="replyTo(22953942); return false;" >Reply to This</a></b></p></span> <span class="nbutton"><p><b><a href="//mobile.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=510232&threshold=1&commentsort=0&mode=thread&cid=22953696" onclick="return selectParent(22953696)">Parent</a></b></p></span>


Now I know people are always going to complain about any change in the system. That is to be expected. But these changes are too much and since the system doesn't revert back to a safer format, they are extremely disruptive. I recommend that this update is rolled back completely until it is implemented better. Especially the damn '/' issue. That is killing me!

PS: are the <ul> and <li> tags now broken?

Re:New Display System (1, Offtopic)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955934)

479 bytes? Are you really so committed to efficiency that you'll complain about an extra amount of data that even dial-up users can download with ease? I think your complaints are better suited to the seemingly exponential amount of Web and software bloat these days rather than complaining about a mere 479 bytes.

Re:New Display System (1, Offtopic)

megaditto (982598) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956224)

479 bytes x 100 comments makes how many additional crud kilobytes? How many extra minutes on dialup?

Re:New Display System (1, Offtopic)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956308)

Based on previous experience, about 0.2.

OT:New Display System (1)

just_another_sean (919159) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956150)

But these changes are too much and since the system doesn't revert back to a safer format, they are extremely disruptive.
Since when is reading /. anything but disruptive? It certainly disrupts my work day a lot...

Re:New Display System (3, Insightful)

megaditto (982598) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956278)

That's the problem with engineers: they are never content. Always searching for a better way. Always trying to change things.

So what if the new skin is crude, broken, inefficient, obstructive, and plain ugly to boot? Just bend over and accept the changes like everybody else. Or are you some kind of a terrorist.

Ecelctic Recluses Maybe (3, Interesting)

laxiepoo (783224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955754)

But terrorists? Only if the engineers are lonely, disgruntled people in-general. I think most engineers would be more Constructive than Destructive by nature. Though if this holds true, then any group looking to forcibly recruit should start with engineers first. Movementarians included.

Re:Ecelctic Recluses Maybe (5, Insightful)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955954)

But terrorists? Only if the engineers are lonely, disgruntled people in-general. I think most engineers would be more Constructive than Destructive by nature

You see... that is the problem. The term "Terrorist" has been so deluded that most people will fall into that category anymore. Smoke pot? Terrorist. Downloaded a song? Terrorist. Using SSH? Terrorist.

And it is thrown around even more, if you show an average intelligence larger than those who would label you a terrorist... and how many people do you think fall into that category?

Re:Ecelctic Recluses Maybe (2, Funny)

shentino (1139071) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956072)

It's not that we're smart, but that they're dumb.

Re:Ecelctic Recluses Maybe (1)

Digi-John (692918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956302)

I think the word you're looking for is "diluted", not "deluded".

Re:Ecelctic Recluses Maybe (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22956100)

I disagree. Simply put, engineers would be excellent terrorists. Engineers look to solve problems. The problem is just determined from a frame of reference. As terrorists, the problem is bringing down some infrastructure by determining its weaknesses and exploiting them. As engineers, the problem is developing the infrastructure and designing them to be robust.

An anecdote: I recall eating lunch one day a couple summers back with some coworkers (all aerospace engineering senior undergrad or grad students). We spent 45 minutes discussing how one could take down a plane while in flight using simple things - nothing fancy such as explosives. Whether any or all of them would be remotely successful is one matter. Nonetheless, in 45 minutes of eating and discussion we had a list of 10 of so items that could be plausible to taking down an aircraft.

Re:Ecelctic Recluses Maybe (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22956116)

A good engineer will always think of the possibilities of destruction, even if they're in the business of construction. An engineer has to critically think about their designs to determine where the weak points are. Whether designing skyscrapers or secure software, determining weaknesses is a part of the job.

I'm sure the thought police would have a field day with me for saying this, but I think about committing crimes now and then. Not that I would do such thing, I enjoy my life outside of prison. But just as a type of mental exercise it's interesting to me while standing in line at a store, noticing where cameras are located, determining blind spots, exit strategies, exposed wiring that could be cut, etc. I then think about how I would improve the system.

My point is that engineering is about designing stability. You can't produce stability if you aren't able to see the possibility of destruction, so the same qualities that make one a good engineer are the qualities that make them a potential terrorist in the eyes of a paranoid politician.

They have the skills, but the desire, maybe not (4, Insightful)

phorm (591458) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956242)

I'd have to agree that it's a fairly thin correlation to draw. Mind you, if I were going to blow something up, I suppose I'd want somebody with an engineering background in demolitions as opposed to an art major.

The question is where you'd fine such an engineer. Unless he/she is already a bit of a nutjob, an engineering background should come with decent employment options and intelligence that would somewhat contrast with the somewhat brainwashed or easily overwhelmed variety of terrorist-recruit that tends to be more readily available.

Recruiting engineers to be terrorists, likely not. Training terrorists to be engineers would be more likely.

Re:Ecelctic Recluses Maybe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22956268)

I think most engineers would be more Constructive than Destructive by nature.
You're looking at it wrong. One could create things that are designed to cause terror.

I've used software, where the main design goal was apparently to make me not want to get out of bed in the morning if I had to use it at all in the day.

Some cities, like Atlanta in particular, have road systems designed in such a genius and convoluted way that people stay indoors in fear that they'll get lost and never get home again.

Think of every badly designed thing you've interacted with. Now understand that it was designed that way on purpose, designed with evil motives. Terrorist engineers are everywhere!

Re:Ecelctic Recluses Maybe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22956282)

Maybe we should just round up all the creative, thinking people (artists, engineers, mathematicians, etc) and THEN we'll be safe.

Engineering Improvements: (5, Funny)

smartaleq (905491) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955784)

We should flood these terrorist groups with engineers and let them improve all their weapons. Afterwards, they'll have pieces left over and nothing will work. Isn't there some saying about "give an engineer a broken computer and he'll give you a working radio"?

Re:Engineering Improvements: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22956228)

You're thinking of Gilligan's Island - and it was a coconut, not a computer.

I'd say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22955800)

Engineers would be good planners. But you need dumb fucks to go blow themselves up.

What about the managers (5, Funny)

esocid (946821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955810)

I already told you: I deal with the god damn customers so the engineers don't have to. I have people skills. I am good at dealing with people. Can't you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?

Re:What about the managers (1)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956164)

Well, the engineer DID burn down the building...

Aptly named (5, Funny)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955812)

With a name like Perl, this man is well-suited to discuss the link between coding and terror.

Also, if you read TFA, he goes on to state that "laziness, impatience, and hubris" are the three virtues of a good terrorist.

P.S. Christ, what has happened to Slashdot's page layout today?? The goggles do nothing!

Re:Aptly named (1)

Kryptikmo (1256514) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956266)

The engineers got at it! BASTARDS!!!!

P.S. Where is the following quote from?

"Before I went to school, I couldn't spell engineer. Now I are one!"

This the second time in just a few months that ... (1)

planckscale (579258) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955814)

This the second time in just a few months that engineers have been likened to terrorists....

This the third time in just a few months that engineers have been likened to terrorists....

This the fourth time in just a few months that engineers have been likened to terrorists....

Ok we get it.

Blah blah. (4, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955816)

I hate these articles, but I can't decide if I hate them because they're intellectual snobbery (not only are we better than physicists, mathematicians, chemists, etc, we're also superlative terrorists!) or I hate them because they're anti-intellectual (Engineers are all smart and anti-social, therefore they're basically the unabomber).

Basically anyone who is methodical and knowledgeable would make a good X, where X is something that needs a methodical knowledgeable person. Engineers are required to be methodical and knowledgeable, so QED.

I don't know why they're so damn fixated on engineers though. Doesn't take an engineer to slam a plane into a building, and that's about the most successful piece of terrorism to date.

Engineer Joke (5, Funny)

essinger (781940) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956012)

(Engineers are all smart and anti-social, therefore they're basically the unabomber).
I think a common stereotype. A friend of mine (who is an actor) told me he'd heard a great joke about engineers:

How do you tell if an engineer is an introvert or an extrovert?
The extrovert looks at your shoes.

Re:Engineer Joke (1)

essinger (781940) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956214)

The extrovert stares at your shoes.

(grumbles about no post edit function on slashdot)

Re:Blah blah. (1)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956132)

Doesn't take an engineer to slam a plane into a building
No, but you can't just hire any old schmoe to do it either.

Re:Blah blah. (4, Funny)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956148)

It takes methodical planning to coordinate the near-simultaneous slamming of four planes, especially when starting with nothing but some money and a group of suicidal, sex-starved Saudis who have no flight training.

Engineers will be better than scientists or academics, despite similarly high intelligence levels, because engineers actually have to show results with their projects.

Instead of profiling and waging wars, though, America's efforts to stop terrorism would best be served by a policy aimed at getting everyone on the planet a good fuck and some cold beer.

Re:Blah blah. (2, Informative)

dwye (1127395) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956232)

> (Engineers are all smart and anti-social, therefore they're basically the unabomber).

The Unabomber was a mathematician. Quit trying to claim credit, where not due, you mere engineer, you. :-)

IANAM, either.

EETimes (2, Interesting)

netruner (588721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955818)

IIRC, this isn't the first article that the EETimes has put out making this connection recently - maybe the EETimes should be investigated.

Re:EETimes (1)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956204)

Certainly not the first time;
  Raising similar arguments of the relationship between inteligent people and the ability of maintaining control by those Lacking in inteligence (politicians) , the Calif Omar of Alexandria ordered the last books left in the great Library burnt in 640AD With such a worthy politican as a apiritual guide I am sure we can find things to do with Engineers.

Wargames... (5, Interesting)

jemenake (595948) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955836)

Reminds me of the quote in Wargames: "He does fit the profile perfectly. He's intelligent, but an under-achiever; alienated from his parents; has few friends. Classic case for recruitment by the Soviets"

Re:Wargames... (0)

Threni (635302) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956038)

>He's intelligent, but an under-achiever; alienated from his parents; has few friends. Classic case for recruitment by the Soviets"

Classic example of 70%+ of teenagers.

Oh, and Al-Queda doesn't recruit engineers because they're weirdos or anything - they recruit them because they're engineers,and engineers can help make bombs etc. Duh!

Re:Wargames... (1)

chaosite (930734) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956198)

Like Yahya Ayyash [wikipedia.org] , nicknamed - wait for it - "The Engineer".

Israel eventually handed him an exploding cell phone, in a particularly nice bit of engineering.

Re:Wargames... (1)

dwye (1127395) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956300)

> nicknamed - wait for it - "The Engineer".

So, originally, was the head of the Northern Alliance, who Al Quaida assassinated the day before hitting the towers.

Real bait and switch article alright... (2, Funny)

MadFarmAnimalz (460972) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955846)

I mean, I can't be the only one who thought this would be an article about the Internet Explorer team at Microsoft?

Dupe (0, Redundant)

KillerCow (213458) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955848)

Engineers Have a Terrorist Mindset? [slashdot.org] Jan 29, 2008

Thanks for playing.

Re:Dupe (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955944)

Did you get that link from the bit in the summary where it says "This the second time in just a few months [slashdot.org] that engineers have been likened to terrorists" or did you just remember it?

Re:Dupe (1)

KillerCow (213458) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956120)

Since that line wasn't in the summary when the article first appeared, I must have remembered it.

Engineers go to school to learn how to plan. (4, Insightful)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955852)

That engineers plan things well should be no surprise. Engineers as a group design everything from bridges to sports stadiums to computer chips. They try to find a good balance of expected average need, overbuild and contingency performance, and cost.

That both the terrorists and those fighting the terrorists would want chemical, electrical, structural, and electronics engineers for their specific areas of expertise alone should come as no surprise. That they're also found to be good planners in general is only slightly less obvious.

The assumption that all engineers are similar to terrorists I think is a stretch.

Re:Engineers go to school to learn how to plan. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22956064)

We don't like planning so much anymore. Plan for a long war? No thanks it will only take 6 weeks. Plan for an incoming hurricane? nah, we got levees. Plan for a housing bubble? Bubble what bubble everything is fine!

It's not the lack of planners that is the problem anymore, it's the people who plan in the first place, don't you see it's their FAULT! Don't trust anyone with an IQ higher than 90.

after skimming the paragraph (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22955854)

I agree that Perl makes me want to be a terrorist.

uhhh... what? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22955856)

FTA: "It's not only in Islamic countries that this is happening, he said. Al-Qaeda is increasingly recruiting scientists and engineers, especially non-Muslims, and is doing so worldwide, according to Perl." ... Al Qaeda is hardly the Soviet Union. As a non-Muslim, I would gain nothing by aiding Al Qaeda. Do they mean "non-Arab?" because that's not exactly the same thing.

Perl? (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955874)

With that surname he should have a hint about who are the real terrorists in the the computer world, and who is their leader,Larry bin Wall.

Self-fulfilling prophecy (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22955880)

Why does this sound like an attempt at a self-fulfilling prophecy? You take brilliant but socially awkward people, scare everyone else into thinking they're terrorists, they fall further and further into loneliness and despair because everyone's afraid of them, they get more and more resentful and anti-social, and presto! Instant terrorists!

"Of COURSE engineers are evil terrorists! If you keep hitting them with this stick and laughing at them, they'll hold it against you! See? I was right!"

This one belongs under real-time-strategy (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955886)

Since Command & Conquer had terrorist engineers years ago. Really, taking over several blocks worth of power stations - to sell them for profit (and to screw up your opponents' grid) - is a pretty high feat of terrorism.

Re:This one belongs under real-time-strategy (1)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956218)

No. That's called business.

Obvious Solution (1)

Gotung (571984) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955888)

Think of the children and outlaw engineers.

And scientists too, cause they say stuff I don't agree with.

the dumbing down (1)

auspiv (769470) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955902)

hmm.. could this be some sort of propaganda coming from somewhere that is trying to make america "dumber" for the next 20-40 years?

Likened to terrorists? (3, Insightful)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955906)

Uhh, hello, isn't that a bit of a leap, going from the statement "Engineers make good terrorists" to the statement "They are being likened to terrorists".

It doesn't appear anyone is *likening* engineers, in general, to terrorists. What they are saying is if you can recruit engineerss to your terrorist cause, that can benefit your cause, because they are good at solving problems and planning. Well, is that not true of engineers? I don't think you can *be* an engineer if that isn't true.

I don't have any problem with the statement, "[Engineers] think differently than other people." I don't think that sounds like a stereotype. If other people thought like engineers, they'd likely *be* engineers. It takes a certain mindset, and a certain capacity to think logically and analytically to be an engineer. Unfortunately, this mindset doesn't necessarily inherently exclude any thought patterns which lead someone to become a terrorist in the first place. (After all, one man's terrorist is often another man's freedom fighter or courageous defender of the faith).

Are all engineers the *same*? No. Is there a certain commonality they share in how they think / solve problems which is not shared with the general public? I think the answer is likely yes.

Re:Likened to terrorists? (4, Funny)

Intron (870560) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956246)

As an engineer, when I read "Engineers make good terrorists" my first thought was:

Why would I want to make a terrorist? Aren't there enough?

Re:Likened to terrorists? (1)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956270)

It doesn't appear anyone is *likening* engineers, in general, to terrorists. What they are saying is if you can recruit engineerss to your terrorist cause, that can benefit your cause, because they are good at solving problems and planning.
So then the article is giving out advice to terrorists?

Uh.... (1)

DigitalisAkujin (846133) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955910)

Um... they forgot one other thing that happens to work for Hamas: A complete lack of any hope for the future.

Brazil (1)

ehiris (214677) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955936)

Makes sense, Tuttle is an HVAC engineer.

However, I don't see how smart engineers could be susceptible to extremist Muslim brainwashing.

Re:Brazil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22956194)

Because, contrary to the popular belief most "muslim" terrorist organizations are not "muslim" terrorist organizations, any more than the IRA is Catholic.

Their political aims are just that - political. For instance, Hamas or Hezballah - they are about independent statehood. That theey would use religious rhetoric to ease the apprehensions of people who may be giving up their lives is understandable. However, they're not doing it because "god" told them to -- they're doing it because they want their bloody country back.

hell, the founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine was a Palestinian Christian. Many of the greatest Republican leaders in Ireland were Protestant, not Catholic (Theobald Wolff Tone, Robert Emmet, etc).

Radical Muslim extremists maybe be easily recruited to do the suicide bombings, but that's just because they don't fully understand the political intricacies of the situation, any more than some bible thumper from Kansas knows why he supports the war in Iraq and is joining the army.

Why we do not ignore terrorism related messages? (1)

zweifel (1070130) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955942)

why people continue to publicate things about terrorism? Why not ignore and just dislike who talk about that? Is there no way to stop this brainwashing machine?

More appropriate (5, Insightful)

spleen_blender (949762) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955946)

Engineers make good EVERYTHING.

Well, um, duh (1)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955956)

Engineers have been an integral part of war campaigns for thousands of years, why wouldn't they be of value to any war effort? It wasn't really until after WW2 that Civil engineering really came into its own (before that they were generally employed by the Govt. when they made the transition to independent companies they got the term Civil). I'd even hold the British/American Engineers won WW2 (certainly the hard work at Los Alamos wasn't just engineers, but they certainly solved some difficult engineering problems) what with Radar and Nuclear weapons. Why would be surprised that they are viewed as high value resources to people who want to blow stuff up?

Re:Well, um, duh (3, Informative)

secPM_MS (1081961) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956258)

It was obvious more than 20 years ago that terrorist organizations were notable for their lack of strategic as well as technical competence. Mind you, this is rather common among the various groups that consider themselves to be social, religious, and political leaders. Legitimate organizations can hire the technical expertise that they need, and find scientists and engineers to be invaluable in accomplishing various objectives - the scientists are needed if you need to develop new technologies to accomplish your objectives.

As an undergraduate physics student in the late 60's I made a number of comments about the total incompetence of the various radical groups. When one radical tried to get me to provide guidance for one of the groups (I still don't know if he actually had the contact) I replied that if I wanted to get into that business, I would go to work for the feds and that the group in question would either get arrested or blow themselves up, both logical and deserved consequences of their stupidity. They did. And they didn't even take out any innocent bystanders.

If you are scared of change, you are not going to like dealing with engineers and scientists. They enable it. Build it up, tear it down, secure it, penetrate it. Engineering can do both good and bad. So can science. Different organizations may have different definitions of good and bad.

Factors ignored. (2, Insightful)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955958)

Here are some factors they ignored:

1. A true engineer would is proud of the work that they do, therefore not hiding it. Hard to hide a bomb that you are proud of.

2. Engineers can't lie (see Dilbert). Therefore, when asked, "Are you a spy?" they answer yes.

3. That when they see a problem, they bring it to the attention of others. So, when they see a security hole, they will point it out instead of abusing it.

4. When they do something, they will tell everyone about it.

Re:Factors ignored. (1)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956180)

Engineers can't lie LOL, hysterical. I'm sorry, engineers are GREAT liars!! We have to do time sheets and status reports!!

Re:Factors ignored. (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956182)

Except engineers, I think, have a better sense of consequences than the general public, you know, if X then Y, such as:

If I blab about engaging in terrorist activities then 1 or more of the following could happen: A) My own terrorist cell leader puts a bullet in my brain for shooting my mouth off (or kills/abducts my wife, child, brother, sister, mother, father, etc), B) a US government agent of some sort puts a bullet in my brain, C) a US government agent grabs me and tortures me for info, D) the US agent doesn't arrest me, but does start spying on me, leading to my cell being compromised.

Seriously, very few engineers, no matter how proud they are of their work, are going to shoot their mouths off about it. Everyone they could possibly 'safely' tell about it *already knows*.

Re:Factors ignored. (1)

mcpkaaos (449561) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956264)

Those are really personality traits. A truly good engineer knows not just what to make of a spec, but what to make of a situation. It's the ability to improvise which makes them so valuable.

Common sense (1)

Hmmm2000 (1146723) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955962)

It seems like it would take an analytical mind to carry out any type of effective terrorist campaign, and it would also take an analytical mind for scientific study. This in itself is not surprising.

However the pool of people with analytical minds is so large, you obviously cant draw the conclusion that people in the field of engineering are statistically more likely to be involved with terrorism.

But the converse could be true.

Not this nonsense again (1)

Chicken_Kickers (1062164) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955974)

Not this nonsense again. I think it has been mentioned before, but many of these intellectuals were recruited in universities. Universities are known worldwide for being a hotbed of revolutions and counter cultural ideas. It is also full of idealistic young students who want to change the world. Unless this article is trying to ban engineering and universities in general, I don't think this is anything new.

Re:Not this nonsense again (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956138)

Come to think of it, there is an organization that would do just that. Maybe we should hear them out [globalsecurity.org] .

Destroy all Engineers! (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955982)

That's why every single engineer should be killed! This is to prevent terrorism from spreading.

After that, we should go for biologists, we should never let god hating heathens live! Why, we may even make an exception for them, and help them abort any babies they have, just in case their babies grow up to be god hating heathens as well!

I agree and take no offense (4, Interesting)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955992)

I frankly find the analysis to be flattering. I don't have to agree with who I am being compared with to appreciate the comparison.. only the qualities being compared are important.

So, thanks for the complement

What's your point? (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22955994)

The article a few months ago I could take issue with, it basically said that engineers were more suseptible to the kind of propaganda that terrorist orginizations use to increase their number. I find that unlikely and, frankly, insulting.

This article is saying something different however. From the summary, they are saying that a good terrorist is smart, independent, with good planning and problem solving skills; a discription that your stereotypical engineer matches pretty well.

However, that isn't a bad thing. Wouldn't these same attributes make a pretty good astronaut, office worker, soldier, doctor, or farmer? The only thing I don't understand about this article is why they singled out engineers in particular.

Re:What's your point? (2, Insightful)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956152)

Because people who can think rationally scare everyone else. We always have "good luck" (planning ahead), or can solve problems in seconds that they've been fighting with for hours. Not to mention a lot of us aren't religious, which makes us different, and therefore evil. Just like those "terrists" who believe in that other god and just want to kill all those red-blooded Americans.

Not just terrorists... (1)

RobinH (124750) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956018)

The fact is, engineers are good at many jobs that require attention to detail.

Details and Social Skills (1)

scubamage (727538) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956026)

So what they're saying is that people who pay attention to details will be likely to sympathize with 'terrorist causes.' I'm guessing they'd mean details like the US and the UK's foreign policy in the middle east and around the world towards companies that nationalize their oil supplies. Or maybe details like the US claiming that in the war on terrorism Americans have the 4th amendment suspended.
Maybe by lack of social skills they mean "willing to actually read text books and learn about the world instead of just sit and watch American Idol." Seems a bit more accurate to me.

Learn how to prove corrolation (1)

DJ Jones (997846) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956034)

Of course terrorist recruit engineers. It's not because of their "attention to details, along with their perceived lack of social skills" it's because terrorists are in the business of blowing things up with pinball machine parts.

If you wanted to blow something up, who would you recruit? an English teacher or a physics graduate?

Endearing and empowering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22956050)

When we were disparaged as 'geeks', we adopted the name. We probably should do the same with 'terrorist'. I think the ordinary people might take us more seriously, even treat us with more respect, if we proudly adopted the new name.

Think of the sound of it. Do you think a girl would rather tell her friends, 'I'm dating a geek', or, 'I'm dating a terrorist'? I bet the latter would sound more exciting and adventurous.

Theorem: Almost no engineers are terrorists. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22956058)

Proof: Nearly all important landmarks are still standing.

Yup, so let's not piss 'em off, OK? (4, Insightful)

ericferris (1087061) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956066)

Overall, it's hard to disagree with the article. Heck, a guy who has the persistence and brains to go through the gruesome class schedules of an Engineering school will not be easily deterred by obstacles. And he is inventive by training if not nature.

An engineer could easily turn bad... And he'd be very good at being bad, if he has the motivation. So the conclusion should be obvious: don't alienate engineers.

That said, I recently met a very nice and competent guy from Pakistan who is in the USA on an H1B visa. He is a PHP developer, and he is quite good. We discussed finances, and to my horror, I found out that he is making $1100/month. His employer houses him in an appartment along with six other H1Bs, so he prolly saves $1000/month in rent, but still, this is an insultingly low pay rate for such a qualified guy, but a factor 4 at least.

Now, this guy is very nice, and way too busy to even think about trouble. But I can't help thinking my reaction if I was dropped into a country where I would make less than your average waiter, after years of hard schooling. I'd harbor a grudge, that's for sure.

So a piece of advice for Execs and VPs: don't be too stingy with your folks. Them techie weirdos can turn into rampaging monster at the drop of a hat. Heck, I'll give them free espressos and decent raisses if I were you. :-)

Slow News Day (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956070)

Smart people, who understand how things work, would be potentially good at causing lots of damage? More so than people who aren't smart and/or don't understand how things work? Who'd have thought!? (And we know which category the author of TFA falls into...)

But wait-- pirating feeds terrorism, too!!!! (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956080)

Arrrrr, Pass Me The Soldering Iron and The C++ Compiler, and that Slide Rule, too, Matey!

It's All Part Of The Plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22956102)


An educated population is more likely to have a critical perspective than an uneducated population.

Therefore, by decreasing the number of engineers one reduces the predisposition of the population to take a critical perspective on
Elected Criminals [whitehouse.org] .

I hope this helps your phone call to the Unted Nations to request military intervention in the United States to help spread democracy and freedom.

PatRIOTically,
Kilgore Trout

yawn! not only old news, but WRONG (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956104)

Let's start with the basic fallacy:
Engineers' focus and attention to details, Yes, some engineers have these traits - along with book-keepers, microbiologists and archeologists just to name a few. Some people in any trade or profession can be described like this - there's nothing special about engineering.

Here's a good one: along with their perceived lack of social skills,
Perceived, surely it's only actual traits that count, not one's that other people might think you have.

Most engineers I know, or have met (clue: lots) are pretty normal people. They fit into society, they don't complain. They're quite likely to be successful and have other (engineer) friends. An unkind person might even call them boring.

Personally I just can't see Dilbert with a bomb strapped under his shirt.

politicians (1)

isotope23 (210590) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956118)

Politicians make better terrorists, and they've been doing it for far longer.....

Smart people in general (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956122)

make good terrorists.

Smart, in a narrow sort of way.

Look at Ted Kazynski, who had an IQ of 170 and had PhD in mathematics. The planning to avoid detection probably didn't occupy much of his intellect. They'd never have caught them if his own brother hadn't recognized the writing in his manifesto. On the other hand, the manifesto reveals a person who is deeply unhappy and can't figure out what to do about it other than to blow people up, and construct elaborate psychohistorical theories to explain why happiness is impossible.

On the other hand, there's roles for people like Richard Reid, who was probably viewed as ajoke by the higher ups. You wouldn't trust him with much, but in a sense he did ultimately prove useful.

It's True (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22956140)

JACK What I've got to do now is pick up Tuttle, interrogate him at the same voltage as Buttle, to the same meter reading to the last penny, and juggle the books in electrical banking.

SAM What has Tuttle done?

JACK We suspect him of freelance subversion.

SAM (dumbly) He's a freelance subversive?

JACK He's a compulsive heating engineer. A maverick ex-Central Service repair man with a grudge against society. Now, fortunately, we're nearly out of the wood, I think. At least we will be when I get this Layton woman under arrest.

Make Love, not... (1)

ArikTheRed (865776) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956146)

Engineers make good lovers, not fighters!

Sounds like the next stage of the conspiracy (1)

Ace905 (163071) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956156)

Anybody remember "V", the futuristic show where evil (and sexy) reptilian aliens took over the earth and started a smear campaign against "Scientists" to get them hated by the public and turned in to authorities for execution?

That show was awesome, and I remember the slow realization I had as a kid that there is no such thing as a "Scientist"... Just physicists and engineers etc.

Anyways, maybe George Bush eats mice when nobodies lookin'... I'm just throwin' that out there.

Silly... (1)

Morkalin (992168) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956160)

This is a bit of a silly comment. Obviously "engineer-types" are generally good at strategic planning, problem solving etc. which would be good in any number of professions. If terrorism requires those traits then obviously engineer-type people would be good at it.

It just seems like a silly point to make. In fact, what is the point?

Good thing (1)

RetroRichie (259581) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956166)

Good thing we're also too smart to get sucked into your silly religious war.

Response (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22956174)

I expect the response to this article to be explosive.

Is this full time? (1)

anonymous_wombat (532191) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956238)

Or hourly? I didn't see anything on Dice.

And they think too! (1)

ShiNoKaze (1097629) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956260)

Those bastards!

Yeah, yeah... (1)

MikeDirnt69 (1105185) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956262)

And an airplane pilot would be a good terrorist, a car racer would be a nice hit-and-run driver, a professional shooter would be a great killer...

If the guy study to be an engineer and them turn to terrorism, he probably was a terrorist already. They don't recruit engineers, they form engineers.

Of course engineers make good terrorists (1)

deodiaus2 (980169) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956272)

Engineers think different. Maybe it should have been said that engineers bother to think. They usually know from "engineering problems" that sometimes the solution to problems is something that has to be analyzed rather than regurgitated. Engineers are usually better educated than the "poor unwashed masses". That and they "dare to criticize" the source. It it amazing in how a democratic populace like the US, people "like being told what to think". A simple example is GWB's why do they hate us so much? Gee, hasn't someone thought beyond the given reply and maybe even ventured a guess that maybe we are "at fault", gasp!! You mean "the C student from Yale" might be wrong? Also, engineers have access to lots of information by virtue of their profession. They meet and travel all over the world, so some of that "foreign propaganda" rubs off. The might even have met a Middle Eastern who is educated too, while as most people's encounter with Ahmed is at the filling station. Secondly, in a modern sophisticated society, weapons and tactics used by the military have common roots from that taught in engineering. It is a sort of a chicken and egg dilemma, but lots of engineering projects have been funded by the military. There is symbiosis of engineering with the military that goes back to the "Battle for Troy". Why I bet even Grog (the caveman) might have mumbled to Geek (the tinker) on how to improve his stone knife. Thirdly, engineers might even understand the plight of other people. Most likely, someone who is and engineer probably came up from the lower middle class end of society, and knows that the distribution of economic wealth is not fair. If he had been better off, he would have been a lawyer, banker or businessman. He might even question why the hell is a capitalistic country like the US subsidizing the Bear Sterns sell off to Morgan Stanley while his house price is falling below the price that he paid for it. Or worse yet, he might be an unemployed middle-aged engineer listening to Bill Gates talk about raising the number of H1B visas, while he is contemplating becoming a cashier at the supermarket. But what the hell do I know?

Politicians make good terrorist recruits (1)

wagr (1070120) | more than 6 years ago | (#22956292)

"Politician's lack of focus and inability to understand the outcome of their actions, along with their perceived ability to attract crowds of civilians, make them ideal targets to be recruited as terrorists, according to me. Lack of planning skills make politicians good 'cannon fodder.' I offer that 'Politicians ideally make excellent use of words over action, and they make excellent cannon fodder. They think differently from how other people think.' That may sound like a stereotype, but I claim that 'because of those traits, terrorist groups actively recruit politicians.' I say that Al-Qaeda's top leadership have exhibited a survival instinct that can be compared to a politician's."
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