What software engineers cannot build

A pile of rock, that's what.

bettercallshao
bettercallshao
What software engineers cannot build

In September of 2018 and January of 2020, I twice visited Teotihuacan, also known as the "Pyramid of the Sun" near Mexico City. Nobody actually knows the names of these large structures, because the city had fell some a millennia ago with no traceable lineage. The popular souvenirs are obsidian stones and pulque.

I can still remember my first time on the pyramid, strolling over an uneven floor of volcanic rocks glued together by limestone, holding myself against the racing wind. What was it like? The pyramid was likely an alter, which only accommodated the likes of shamans and kings, who sacrificed humans at the very place I stood. It must have taken many generations of labour to build this tower of worship. But how did people find the resolve to build onto things so large that will not be completed in their life times?

I imagined a world where ancient people of this land believed so much in their culture that they devoted their life to it, and became one with the generations to come. The people are no longer a collection of individuals, but a continuum through time carrying each other's identity into the future. It chills me to imagine the devastation of the last generation of Teotihuacan, having to abandon the identities of their ancestors, to disperse, and never to be recognized again.

However, they left behind the pyramid. A mark in history that traversed time to reach us. A mark on earth that is unchanged and indestructible. A pile of rock that will withstand a nuclear war. The continuum survives in this mark, and the identities of the generations persevere.

In a modern society, people outlive "eras". A 90 year old American would remember the war in the 40s, the boom in the 60s, the computers in the 80s, the internet in the 2000s, and the threat to democracy in the 20s. We seem to live forever, and we fully commit to living our best individual lives. We create and interact, and there is so much to do! Yet, as a software engineer, which I dare say is one of the respected professions, I cannot claim credit onto anything that can withstand a nuclear war. I am not part of a continuum, nor connected to the future generations. I question myself, when I wither, will there be a mark?